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Columbia Theological Seminary 

Volume LVII, No. 3 
July, 1964 



FOREWORD— By J. McDowell Richards 

1 "The Concept of Balance in the Old Testament" 

... By Ludwig R. Dewitz 

19 "Can Catholics and Protestants really talk together?" 

... By Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr. 

34 "Moral Values in Society" 

... By Thomas H. McDill 

46 "Philosophical Elements in the Early Reformed Tradition" 

... By Paul T. Fuhrmann 

62 "The Enigma of Death" 

... By Stuart B. Babbage 

79 From England By Knox Chamblin 

85 From Germany By Gerhard Wehmeier 

91 From Italy By Thurlow Weed 


95 J. A. T. Robinson, Honest to God 

... By Neely McCarter 

103 HEINZ ZAHRNT, The Historical Jesus (Translated by J. S. 

... By Charles B. Cousar 

107 CLAUS WESTERMAN (ed.) Essays on Old Testament Her- 
meneutics (Translated by J. L. Mays) 

107 BERNARD W. ANDERSON (ed.) The Old Testament and 
Christian Faith: A Theological Discussion 

... By James H. Gailey, Jr. 



701 Columbia Drive 

Volume LVII July, 1964 No. 3 

Published quarterly by the Directors and Faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary 
of the Presbyterian Church, U. S. 

Entered as second-class matter, May 9, 1928, the Post Office at Decatur, Ga., under 
the Act of Congress of August 24, 1912. 


Columbia Theological Seminary has not in the 
past provided a medium through which its faculty 
could contribute regularly to the thought of the 
Church as a whole. The institution has not sought to 
sponsor a theological journal. It is also true that, for 
various reasons, the quarterly bulletins of the seminary 
have, with rare exceptions, been devoted largely to 
news and announcements concerning its work. 

In the conviction that such a condition needs to be 
altered, the present bulletin has been enlarged and is 
devoted entirely to scholarly articles and reviews by 
faculty members and alumni of the seminary. No uni- 
fying theme has been chosen for this issue,, but an 
attempt has rather been made to deal with varied 
aspects of contemporary theological thought and 

Although no definite policy has been established, 
it is hoped that in future at least one bulletin annually 
will be of a similar nature. 

The seminary will welcome reactions on the part of 
its readers as to whether such a practice will serve a 
useful purpose in the life of the Church. 

J. McDowell Richards 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 

The Concept of Balance 
In The Old Testament 

Ludwig R. Dewitz 

If one tried to define a certain trend in recent publications 
pertaining to the Old Testament field of Biblical studies, it 
could be said that "balance" is one of the dominating factors. 
Anderson's panel discussions on The Old Testament and Chris- 
tian Faith as well as Westermann's collection of Essays on Old 
Testament Hermeneutics, Barr's books on The Semantics of 
Biblical Language and Biblical Words for Time, the theologies 
of Eichrodt, Vriezen and v. Rad, however much they may 
differ as to method, these books focus attention on all factors 
involved, thus avoiding a position of imbalance. In this con- 
nection it is striking to note that two essays, dealing with Egypt 
and Mesopotamia respectively, in Frankfort's publication The 
Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man state that the decline of 
these two cultures might be traced to an inherent imbalance in 
them. Wilson concludes: "Egypt had not had the opportunity 
or the capacity to work out the interrelation of man and God in 
terms satisfactory to both. To put it in a different context, 
Egypt had not had the opportunity or the capacity to work out 
the interrelation of the individual and the community in terms 
of benefit to both." 1 Similarly Jacobsen remarks concerning 
Mesopotamia: "Divine will and human ethics proved incom- 
mensurable," and then comments on the "Dialogue of Pessi- 
mism": "With this denial of all values, denial that a 'good life' 
existed, we end our survey of Mesopotamian speculative 
thought." 2 

We believe that one of the factors which gave Israel's faith 
abiding vitality when other cultures died is the factor of bal- 
ance. Israel's theological thought, religious practice and social 
structure were balanced in such a way that from its beginning 

Ludwig Dewitz is a graduate of the Universities of London and Johns Hopkins. 
This paper is the text of his Inaugural Address as Professor of Old Testament 
Languages, Literature and Exegesis, delivered in the Columbia Presbyterian Church, 
Decatur, Georgia, on March 18, 1964. 

1 Henri Frankfort, The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man, Chicago 1946, 

p. 118f. 

8 ibid. p. 358 

at the Exodus, through all the vicissitudes of its checkered 
history Israel was able to emerge ever again as a living power. 

While there are a good many realms in which the factor of 
balance plays an important role, we shall confine ourselves to 
tracing it in three areas : 

1 ) in Israel's understanding of God 

2 ) in Israel's system of religious leadership 

3 ) in Israel's view of individual and community 

Mollat says rightly: "The name Yahweh contains all the 
faith of Israel", 3 and it is precisely in the revelation of that 
name that we discover this factor of balance. Here the transcen- 
dence and the immanence of God appear in such a way that 
both retain their distinctive values without merging into each 
other. It is the imbalance between the two which makes Near 
Eastern religions outside Israel so vulnerable and unstable. 
While gods, men and animals are regarded as distinct from 
each other, they all are so involved with the natural pattern of 
things that while the gods have far more potential than both 
men and animals, this is merely a matter of degree. The lines 
of transcendence and immanence are blurred at best ; even the 
kind of Egyptian monotheism that we have in Ekhnaton's 
creed is bound to the solar disk, and the chief gods of the Meso- 
potamian pantheon are intimately connected with natural phe- 
nomena : Anu, the god of the sky, Enlil, the Lord of the storm, 
Enki, the lord of the earth and Ninhursaga, the lady of the 
mountains. Both human society and the Civitas Dei of the 
Mesopotamians are subject to irresponsible and irrational 
forces. This is seen in the Gilgamesh epic's tale of the Flood 
where destruction is wrought at the mere whim of the god 
Enlil: "For he unreasoning brought on the deluge and my 
people consigned to destruction.", and where nature unleashed 
endangers the gods : "The gods were frightened by the deluge, 
and, shrinking back, they ascended to the heaven of Anu. The 
gods cowered like dogs, crouched against the outer wall. Ishtar 
cried out like a woman in travail." 4 Transcendence and im- 
manence are here contingent on nature. Thus also, in Egypt as 

8 quoted from A.-M. Besnard, Le Mystere du Norn, Paris 1962, p. 10. 

4 Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Second Edition by James B. Pritchard, Princeton, 

1955, pp. 94, 95 

well as in Mesopotamia, the gods emerge out of the primordial 
mass ; they are really part of nature, and do not stand aside of 
creation as is the case with the god of Israel. 

In the Old Testament transcendence and immanence never 
merge, but balance each other perfectly. This is seen in a re- 
markable way in the Exodus passages dealing with the revela- 
tion of the Name of God. There are three specific places in 
which prominence is given to the meaning of God's name 
which, to use the nomenclature of the documentary hypothesis, 
belong to the Elohist, Yahwist and priestly code respectively. 

First we have Exodus 3:14 where, to his question regarding 
God's name, Moses receives the answer: " 'ehyeh 3 aser 3 ehyeh 
I am Who I am . . . Say to the people of Israel 3 eyeh I am 
has sent me to you," and then a further statement is added "Say 
to the people of Israel: Yahweh — (He is) the God of your 
fathers has sent me unto you." 

"I am who I am"; that is God's mysterious name, and in 
ancient times a name was intimately connected with the essence 
and character of a person so named. What can we say, then, 
about this name "I am who I am"? Does it reveal or obscure? 
Does it bring God nearer or move him farther away? Do we 
encounter here the deus revelatus or the deus absconditus? Old 
Testament scolars have sided with either position. Thus Grether 
writes: "The tetragram identifies God as revealing Himself, as 
deus revelatus. 335 Koehler, on the other hand, maintains: "I am 
who I am" is a statement which withholds information — 
hence, if dogmatic formulas have to be used, not deus revelatus, 
but, in the strictest sense, deus abconditus. 6 Similarly Dubarlez 
writes : "The name suggests the impossibility of defining God." 7 
Bowman also concludes that the formula used is a "rather 
meaningless phrase." 8 It is interesting in this connection that 
in the Talmud, we have the same opinion offered by one of the 
Jewish sages. He comments on the words "This is my name for 
ever" by stating that the fully written lecolam (the Hebrew 

5 O. Grether, Name und Wort Gottes im Alien Testament, 1934, p. 7 

6 Ludwig Koehler, Theologie des Alten Testaments, Tuebingen 1936, p. 234, note 36 

7 A. P. M. Dubarlez, La Signification du nom de Yahweh, Revenue des Sciences 
Philosophiques at Theologiques, XXXIV, 1951, p. 20 

8 R. A. Bowman, Yahweh the Speaker, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 1944, p. 2 

word "forever") should be read without waw and be pointed 
lecallem reading: "this my name should be hidden." 9 

Yet, writers are not wanting who invest these words with 
much more positive meaning. If the statement does not furnish 
a clue as to God's essential nature in philosophical terms as to 
his aseity — it is interesting in this connection that the LXX 
has a tendency that way translating "I am the Existing One" 
(ego eimi ho on) — the Hebrew text certainly affirms an effec- 
tive relationship of God to His people. Vriezen has rightly 
stressed the point that the syntax of the sentence is important 
here. 10 We have a paronomastic relative sentence of which a 
number occur in the Old Testament as for instance the phrase : 
"I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show 
mercy on whom I will show mercy." 11 or: "But I, the Lord 
will speak the word which I will speak, and it will be per- 
formed." 12 ; these sentences convey with their indefiniteness 
also a sense of superlative, of intensity. Thus "I am who I am" 
expresses the reality of the unfathomable, yet the syntactical 
arrangement of the words points to God at the same time as 
"being indeed what He is!" This fact of being must be under- 
stood in the dynamic sense which the Hebrew hayah "to be" 
generally carries. The existence stressed here is not to be taken 
in a metaphysical sense, but rather in a communicative sense : 
"active being on behalf of someone"; yet this present reality 
can never be gotten hold of, it can only be revealed in sovereign 
action. We have, then, in the formula "I am who I am" the 
deus revelatus and the deus absconditus at the same time, or, 
to say it differently, both the transcendence as well as the im- 
manence of God are impressed on us. The phrase is indefinite, 
thus affirming the absolute liberty of God Whose being cannot 
be confined in human terminology; there is no explanation as 
to His essence; He remains fully the "Other"; at the same 
time, "I am who I am" implies His real active presence which 
is independent of our understanding of Him. We may conclude, 
then, that a perfect balance is maintained by the phrase be- 
tween transcendence and immanence, expressed better in the 

9 Talmud, Pesachim 50a 

10 Th. G. Vriezen, 'Ehje 'Aser 'Ehje, Festschrift Alfred Bertholet, Tubingen 1950, 
pp. 490-512 

"Exodus 33:19b 
"Ezekiel 12:25 

context of the Old Testament, between "Unassailable Sov- 
ereignty" and "gracious condescension." 

The same truth meets us in the Yahwistic account dealing 
with the name of God. 13 To Moses' request "Show me thy 
glory." the answer is given: "I will make all my goodness pass 
before you, and will proclaim before you my name Yahweh 
("The Lord") ; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gra- 
cious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, 
he said, "you cannot see my face ; for man shall not see me and 
live." God's transcendence makes it impossible that He can be 
seen by mortal man, yet God is accessible, not, be it noted, by 
any magical manipulation of His Name, but in the revelation 
of His goodness. His sovereignty remains independent of man's 
attempt to lay hold of Him, yet in condescending mercy He 
veils the kabod. His consuming glory, emblem of His transcen- 
dence in order that His goodness should become man's experi- 
ence of His presence. 

In the passage ascribed to the Priestly Code dealing with 
the communication of God's name we read : And God said to 
Moses, "I am Yahweh ("the Lord") . I appeared to Abraham, 
to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name 
Yahweh ("the Lord") I did not make myself known to 
them." 14 

The name here is given as guarantee of the Covenant : "I 
am Yahweh" heads the section dealing with the period from 
the patriarchs to the Egyptian bondage, and again "I am 
Yahweh" heads the section which describes the future of the 
redeemed people, centering in the promise: "I will take you 
for my people, and I will be your God." The statement that 
it was Yahweh who was dealing with the patriarchs, even 
though He was not recognized as such by them, emphasizes 
something of the transcendental aspect of God's action in his- 
tory; He is ever greater than human comprehension; at the 
same time, God's self-revelation will break, at His will, into the 
realm of history, stressing and guaranteeing its purpose of im- 
manent relationship: "I am Yahweh ... I will take you for 
my people and I will be your God." 

18 Exodus 33:12-34:23 
"Exodus 6:2 

Concluding our study of the passages dealing with the reve- 
lation of the name Yahweh we may say that in each case the 
aspect of absolute sovereignty as well as condescending reality 
is maintained. "I am who I am" emphasizes primarily the 
other-worldly aspect of God, yet the name is given to be com- 
municated to a people who should experience the redeeming 
power of that unfathomable, .dynamic presence; Yahweh is 
Lord of History, above it, yet in it. 

"I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will pro- 
claim before you my name Yahweh ("the Lord"), but you 
cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." Here 
the stress is more on immanent relationship. The nature of 
God and the nature of man are as such incompatible, but the 
goodness of God becomes a vehicle by which personal relation- 
ship between God and man becomes a reality. 

Again "I am Yahweh" in Exodus 6 shows the sovereignty 
of God. The patriarchs did not know Him as Yahweh, yet now 
that the revelation of His Name is given, the result will be a 
people that will respond in witness and service to Him, in 
other words, there will be an immanent relationship with a 
transcendent God, so well expressed in the opening words of 
the First Commandment : I am Yahweh, transcendence ; your 
God, immanence. 

Two more things may be added. 

In the context of the passage dealing with Moses' request 
to see God's glory, we have a further statement regarding God's 
name in Exodus 34:14: "Yahweh whose name is Jealous." 
Renaud who has made a thorough study of the use of the word 
"jealous" in the Old Testament points out how this term has 
suffered much from the hands of its interpreters. 15 They were 
influenced by a priori and too subjective concepts, according 
to which the term "jealous" belonged to the primitive idea of 
a terrible avenging God Whose action is aimed at punishing 
sinners. They tend to overemphasize the use of the term in the 
Sinaitic tradition. Others avoiding the word "jealous" prefer 
to translate the Hebrew ganna or ganunoh as "zealous" de- 
riving it from the Greek equivalents zelotes or zelotos wishing to 
underline the positive zeal of God referring mainly to passages 

15 Bernard Renaud, ]e suis un dieu jaloux, Paris 1963 


in Zechariah and Joel in order to establish their position. Does 
the term, then, speak of the sovereign God Who overwhelms 
in shattering power or are we dealing here with the condes- 
cending God Who exerts Himself to save His Own in passion- 
ate love? Again it is not a matter of either — or, but of balance 
between the two. 

The term "jealous God" is basic to the understanding of the 
Second Commandment which prohibits representation of God 
by an image. The position of this commandment has been 
variously assessed. In the reckoning of Philo, Josephus, the 
Greek Orthodox and Reformed churches it is counted as the 
Second Commandment; Augustine, the Roman Catholic and 
Lutheran Churches on the other hand do not count it separ- 
ately, but see it rather in close relation to the first command- 
ment, really as a kind of commentary on it. Zimmerli, and I 
would thoroughly agree with him, has argued very convincingly 
that the prohibition to have an image of Yahweh does not lie 
primarily in the idea of the spiritual versus the material, the 
invisible versus the visible — but rather does it protect Yahweh's 
transcendent sovereignty. It would be an undue limitation of 
Himself to localize him in a fashion by which he would become 
manageable by the hand and for the purposes of man. 16 

Renaud rightly comments: "Yahweh is a sovereign God; 
he will not allow Himself to be bound in such a manner. God 
gives Himself, He does not allow Himself to be taken. Represen- 
tations of the divine would represent an attempt to limit his 
liberty and sovereignty . . . God is not known in Israel by 
material representation, but by His Word and His saving action. 
He does not say: "See how I am and you will know me", but 
"See what I have done and obey me." 17 

The jealousy of God, then, is a term safeguarding God's 
transcendence : it exerts itself immanently in painful purifying 
action when His people deny this othernesss of God by idolatry, 
yet it also works on behalf of His covenant people when the 
heathen mock them "Where is their God?" — as we read: 
"Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on 

1<J Walter Zimmerli. Das Zweite Gebot, Festschrift Albert Bertholet, Tubingen 1950, 
p. 561 

17 Renaud, op. cit, p. 50 

His people." 18 God's revelation of His name as "jealous" is a 
practical expression of monotheism, a term which is intimately 
connected with the Covenant. 19 Thus the qinah ("the jeal- 
ousy") of Yahweh safeguards His transcendence and im- 
manence in perfect balance. 

While images of Yahweh are prohibited in the Decalogue, 
we do know that anthropomorphisms are a definite feature of 
Old Testament revelation; not only does God appear in human 
form in the early narratives of the Pentateuch, but the later 
prophets too are using anthropomorphic language when speak- 
ing of God. Human action is freely ascribed to Him: God 
speaks, hears, has eyes and hands, with his fingers he writes on 
the tables of the law, his arm is stretched out, he has feet, lips 
and ears, his heart recoils within him. 20 Similarly God's emo- 
tions and actions are described in human terms. 21 Yet, no 
human representation must be made of God. This again shows 
perfect balance : God is so transcendent that no representation 
of Him can be allowed, He is so immanent that His presence 
must be described anthropomorphically ; in other words, God 
is never so transcendent that he can ever be depersonalized into 
a mere idea of God; yet He is never so immanent that man 
could manage or dominate Him. Priestly magic, a common 
feature in ancient near Eastern religion, is not found in the 
Old Testament. 

We may fittingly close this section of our study by a quota- 
tion from Hosea. This prophet states the fact of God's trans- 
cendence and immanence tersely when he proclaims: "I am 
God and not man, the Holy One in your midst." 22 This, by the 
way, furnishes us with what I would regard as a more ade- 
quate theological statement than Bishop Robinson's formula 
based on Tillich in His book Honest to God describing God as 
"the ground of our Being"; Hosea is more central: "The Holy 
One in your midst" ; Transcendence and Immanence in perfect 

Moving from the realm of theology proper to that of re- 

18 Joel 2:18 

19 Renaud, op. cit., p. 142 

20 For a summary of relevant passages see Koehler, op. cit. p. 4 

21 ibid. 

22 Hosea 11:9 


ligious leaders in the Old Testament, we encounter Priests and 

These two orders were seen by Wellhausen and his followers 
as standing in opposition to each other, the prophets emerging 
as superior, representing ethical monotheism over against per- 
functory ritualism. Mowinckel, and others after him, stressing 
the role of the prophets in connection with the cult 23 have 
quite convincingly shown that the mere antithesis prophet 
versus priest is not adequately representing the Biblical source- 
material, but is more in line with philosophical suppositions of 
the Hegelian school. 

It is true that the prophets whose messages we have re- 
corded in the books of the Bible bearing their name do oppose 
the priests very definitely, but their opposition is equally di- 
rected against the prophets of their time. Thirty times "priests 
and prophets" are addressed together by the great Scriptural 
prophets. Research into early Israelite history also bears out the 
fact that we meet priests and prophets practically from the 
beginning of her national history. 24 Priests are present at the 
giving of the Covenant at Sinai, and the episode of the two 
elders Eldad and Medad prophesying, with Moses encouraging 
them saying: "Would that all the Lord's people were proph- 
ets! . . ." 25 shows that indeed priesthood and prophetism were 
linked intimately as vital factors in early Israelite religion. 
This is not the place to sketch the historical development of the 
two orders; suffice it to say that the emergence of the great 
individual prophets, whose words fill so much of the Old Testa- 
ment record, is, in a way, an emergency measure when the 
existing priesthood and prophetic order had ceased to fulfill 
their divinely given purpose aright. 

The two orders are actually complementing each other, 
balancing religious experience in such a way that it is relevant 
to Yahweh, the Sovereign, yet condescending God of grace, 
transcendent and immanent at the same time, the God of His- 
tory Who has come and Who will come. It is in the tension of 

23 Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien III, Kultprophetie und Prophetische Psal- 
men, Amsterdam 1961, p. 14 ff., for further literature see Otto Ploeger, Priester und 
Prophet, Z. A. W., LXIII, 1951, p. 174, note 2. 

24 cf. R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, New York 1953, pp. 42-43 

25 Numbers 11:29 

past and future revelation, i.e., the proclamation of the deus 
revelatus and the deus absconditus, that the present of religious 
experience receives its life and meaning in Israel. It has been 
said, and not without reason, that the priests emphasized the 
static element in Israelite religion, while the prophets stressed 
its dynamic content. 26 Torah, Law-instruction, the teaching of 
given revelation is the concern of the priest, debar Yaweh, The 
Word of the Lord which comes, that of the prophet. The classi- 
cal passage regarding the duties of the priest in Deuteronomy 
33:8 clearly states as his central objective: They shall "teach 
Jacob thy ordinances and Israel thy law". It is the constant 
complaint of Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others that the 
priests have failed precisely in this, engaging themselves rather 
in the more lucrative realm of their sacrificial office, as Hosea 
puts it so strikingly: . . . "For with you is my contention, oh 
priest . . . you have forgotten the law of God . . . they feed on 
the sin of my people, they are greedy for their iniquity." 27 

In other words, the more sin, the more need for sacrifice, 
the more tangible riches for the priest ! It was this imbalance 
within the priest's appointed domain which roused the ire of the 

However, ignoring the abuse of the priestly office, and focus- 
sing on their positive contribution to the life of Israel, we must 
state emphatically that without them that life would have been 
impossible. The exposition of the Torah, the insistence on re- 
lating the past to the present in the ritual of word and deed in 
the cult, the affirmation of the ceremonial as well as the ethical 
law — so clearly stated in Psalms 15 and 24; all these factors 
keep alive in Israel the fact of the immanence, the abiding 
presence of God with His people. There is a beautiful balance 
in the priestly concept of God regarding His transcendence and 
His immanence. The division made between that which is holy 
and that which is profane gives a constant awareness that the 
God of Israel is other-worldly, even though revealed in this 
world. In the priestly writings there is a decided polemic against 
anthropomorphic representation of God, so much so that it is 
the kabod, the formless brightness of glory, or shem, the name, 
the spiritual, immaterial hypostasis, by which God's presence 

28 Walter Eichrodt, Theologie des Alien Testamentes, Sixth Edition, I, Stuttgart 
1959, p. 292 
27 Hosea 4:4,6,8 


is known. The absolute sovereignty of God is further stressed 
in the exclusive use af the word berit for God's covenant with 
Israel while in other portions of the Old Testament the word 
also has a secular application. Furthermore, the usual formula 
karat berit, to make a covenant, is never used in priestly writ- 
ings, it is always hebi } or natan, God establishes or grants the 
covenant. The Torah, then, is the immanent personal expres- 
sion of the will of the divine Sovereign ruler. Hence history is 
for the priest an outworking of something given once for all ; his 
point of view is special in that history is the ground for the 
development of a given order. The Sabbath was ordained at 
creation, the tabernacle is a replica of a heavenly pattern, the 
Chronicler joins Israel's royal history to Adam. The word 
'olarn referring to unlimited time is a favorite expression of the 
priests; they speak of the "eternal covenant, the eternal law, 
the eternal King." 28 

The priests stress the objective order of things; however, 
with all their particularism, stressing the ordinances of Israel, 
they are aware of the fact that the God of Israel is also the Lord 
of the Universe, and the Covenant with Abraham finds its place 
within that made with Noah. 29 A static order of things calls for 
further development rather than that there should be a verti- 
cal breaking in of God into history to establish His kingdom. 
Hence a true eschatology is missing in priestly theology ; if any- 
thing, we have a realized eschatology, as is clear so much from 
the Psalms used in public worship affirming the fact "The Lord 
reigns", and that right now. 30 The Torah is the formative 
principle of history. 

There are still many in our days who would echo when it 
comes to the priests in the Old Testament what Gunkel wrote 
in his Genesis Commentary: "For personal piety P. (i.e., the 
priestly writer) has no concern, he is only interested in the 
objective aspect of religion." 31 Yet, this is surely an over-sim- 
plification and unwarranted exaggeration. To the priest the 
regular, outward observance of the cult ritual was a measurable 
sign of personal devotion. After all "motivation", "attitude" 

28 Genesis 9:16; Leviticus 24:8; Leviticus 3:17, 6:11; Psalm 29:10; 93:2 

29 Eichrodt, op. cit. p. 278 

30 Psalm 93:1, 97:1, 99:1 

31 Herrmann Gunkel, Genesis, Gottingen 1910, p. 141 


cannot be truly assessed — God alone knows the hypocrites by 
examining the heart, but active participation in worship might 
rightly be taken as an objective expression of a subjective faith. 
As a matter of fact, worship ennobles man, being the vehicle 
by which a Holy God creates a Holy people. The many psalms 
expressing exuberant joy at the worship of the temple 32 show 
that priestly functions did by no means result in cold, meaning- 
less ritual. 

Left to itself, there are very real dangers, of course, in a one- 
sided priestly view of things. A theistic understanding of God 
might turn into a deistic view, since his transcendence is apt to 
be described in somewhat abstract terms and the division be- 
tween holy and profane might be overemphasized to the extent 
that God loses touch with the world; the objective stress on the 
cult might result in a religion of an opus operatum where the 
grace of the covenant is lost in the assumed management of it ; 
thus the Torah instead of being a formative, becomes a creative 
element of religion, of which post-Christian rabbinical Judaism 
with its Talmud is an example. 

It is in prophetism that we find a balance as well as a sup- 
plement for these dangers, just as priestly theology provides us 
with a regulating force against prophetic subjectivism or escha- 
tological other worldliness. 

While there are areas in which priestly and prophetic 
activity overlap in that both give oracles and are attached to 
holy places, it is the difference between the two which is the 
more striking aspect of their respective offices. If, with the 
priest, it is the office which sanctifies him, it is the personal call 
which makes the prophet. If Albright is right that we have to 
connect the Hebrew nabi with the Akkadian nabu 33 ("to call") 
then the element of "call" appears even in the etymology of the 
word. We have the personal call of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both 
of whom were priests to begin with. The strange story in I 
Kings 13 where a prophet from Judah is drawn aside by a 
prophet from Bethel to have a meal with him, and then is told 
that because he accepted the invitation he had been proved 
disobedient to his first call and so would die on the way back, 

33 Psalms 27; 73; 84; 122 etc. 

33 William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, Second Edition, Balti- 
more 1957, p. 303 


well illustrates the important personal, subjective element in the 
prophet's call. 

The prophet represents in a very special way the charis- 
matic element in religion; he is moved to action by the Spirit. 
The priest responds to human inquiry, and he finds his answers 
from past revelation, or by the use of the available Urim and 
Turnmim, the prophet is activated by the demand of God who 
puts his dabar, his word into him. The Spirit comes and goes; 
thus, 'ish elohim, the Man of God, is very conscious of his de- 
pendence on God's giving alone; while the priest is more in 
danger by the very office he holds to monopolize, materialize 
and nationalize God. 

Eichrodt is right when he stresses that, in contrast to the 
priest, the prophets confronted Israel basically with the God 
who was to come rather than the God Who had come. 34 
Against the priest who had a tendency to limit the deus reve- 
latus to the events of the Exodus and Sinai, the prophets pro- 
claimed the God of the future; His overwhelming judgment as 
well as salvation would make man deeply aware of the deus 
absconditus before whom the total order of existing things 
would break up to be replaced by a new covenant, a new heart, 
a new heaven and a new earth. If the priests thought somewhat 
statically and horizontally from the past, the prophets pro- 
claimed a dynamic and vertical intervention. If the universalism 
of the priests was more or less set as the order of existing things, 
With Israel holding a special place, the prophets put the nations 
and Israel under the same judgment, but also under the same 
salvation : "Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth !" 35 
For the priestly writer the history of Israel had become a fixed 
terminus either with the conquest of Canaan or else with the 
establishment of the Davidic dynasty in the sense that all that 
followed was simply a matter of correction or reformation ; its 
purpose was to conserve the given revelation. For the prophets 
the past history of Israel was an incredible chain of events 
which could only lead to righteous judgment, and, then, still 
more incredible, but in keeping with the God of the Covenant, 
to a new bond of saving relationship. It is not only man working 
out the purposes of God in shaping history, but it is God's pur- 

34 Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 294 

35 Isaiah 45: 22 


pose to come Himself into the history of Israel and the world as 
Judge and Savior. 

The true inspiration of the Old Testament seems to lie in the 
way in which the religious experience of Israel is balanced by 
the priestly and prophetic elements contributing to its spiritual, 
ethical and historical existence. Israel could not live by priestly 
Torah alone, nor by the prophetic dabar alone. Both were 
needed for the rich experience of living as God's Covenant 
people. Word and Sacrament were as vital to Israel as they 
are to us today; the danger of world-ignoring apocalyptic, 
which was germinally present in the prophets' eschatology, was 
balanced by the priests' insistence that God had His people here 
in this world, the priest's danger of objectivizing the cult into 
mere performance was laid bare by the prophets' insistence 
on subjective obedience. Historically, we know, that this bal- 
ance was rightly appreciated by leading spirits in Israel. Ezra 
was a priest who reorganized the life of Israel after the Exile, 
and it was the priests who have preserved for us the words of 
the prophets. Ezekiel who does thunder against the cult and 
even the temple as strongly as his contemporary Jeremiah con- 
summates his prophecy significantly enough not just with an 
appeal to new spiritual and ethical being, but with insistence 
on the central place of the temple. There is the prophetic 
element in the 51st Psalm where we read: 

For thou hast no delight in sacrifice ; 
were I to give a burnt offering, 
thou wouldst not be pleased. 
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; 
a broken and contrite heart, 
O God, thou wilt not despise ; 
yet the significant priestly addition has been made: 
Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure ; 

rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, 
then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices, 

in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings ; 
then bulls will be offered on thy altar. 

The Old Testament establishes both earth and heaven, the 
life that now is and that is to come under the sovereign will of 
God. Present existence is in tension between past and future 
revelation, and we might add that perhaps we, as Christians, 
have to learn this afresh, lest an imbalance between the first 
and second coming of Christ impoverish our life and witness. 

Finally, we might consider one more area in which the 
Old Testament factor of balance is worth noting, that is in the 
relationship between individual and community. 

The very word by which man is introduced into God's crea- 
tion raises the concept of "corporate personality", to use 
Wheeler Robinson's phrase. 36 

"Adam" is used collectively in Genesis 1 : 26 when God says : 
"Let us make Adam ("man") in our image, after our likeness, 
and let them (plural) have dominion . . . ", and in the follow- 
ing verse he is seen individually and collectively: "So God 
created Adam ("man") ... in the image of God he created 
him . . . male and female he created them"; the reverse is 
true in chapter 5:2-3, where we read: "Male and female he 
created them . . . and he named them ("Adam") when they 
were created." These plurals are followed then by a strict in- 
dividualistic use of the term: When "Adam had lived 130 
years, he became the father of a son." Thus we have "Adam" 
applied to man and woman, and then again to one particular 
member of the male sex alone, as is the case of course, all 
through chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis. In the remaining occur- 
rences of the word, amounting to about 500 times, the collective 
sense of mankind predominates. 37 Where an individual man is 
intended the normal use is ben 3 adam as we have it in Psalm 8 
and many times in Ezekiel. 38 We may conclude, then, even 
from such a cursory study that individualism and collectivism 
are closely related to each other, as Rowley observes so well 
when he writes: "In no period of the life of Israel do we find 
extreme collectivism or extreme individualism, but a combina- 
tion of both." 39 

36 H. Wheeler Robinson, The Religious Ideas of the Old Testament, Second Edition, 
London 1956, p. 87 

37 Koehler, op. cit., p. 113; cf. G. Ernest Wright, The Biblical Doctrine of Man in 
Society, London 1954, p. 49 

28 Psalm 8:4; Ezekiel 2:1, 3:1,4:1 etc. 

39 H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel, Philadelphia 1957, p. 100 


It has rightly been observed that Jeremiah and Ezekiel 
bring the value of the individual to the fore. They face a people 
who diagnose . their predicament merely as the result of col- 
lectivism. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the child- 
ren's teeth are set on edge." 40 Not so, say the prophets, each 
individual carries his own responsibility: "The son shall not 
suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the 
iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be 
upon himself ; and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon 
himself," 41 "Every one shall die for his own sin, each man who 
eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge." 42 Yet, we must 
not individualize religion on the basis of these statements to 
such an extent as if all that mattered was the relationship of the 
individual to God. These statements must be seen in their prop- 
er context ; the emphasis is made, because collectivism had be- 
come a total concept. The same Jeremiah who stresses indi- 
vidual responsibility also knows of the results of national guilt 
in which the innocent suffer as members of the community: 
"Sons and daughters of the present generation shall suffer, die 
and not be lamented." 43 It is the imbalance of the relationship 
of the individual and society that is criticized ; when the nation 
or the monarchy provide a threat to the individual so that he 
might be lost in the communal system, the prophets risk the 
destruction of the monarchy and the nationhood to save the 
individual's responsibility within the Covenant, yet there is no 
place for individual asceticism in Israel. The people who return 
from the exile are still a community albeit a community of 
faith, the strength of which lies in the service rendered to it by 
the individual. Haggai, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, trace 
the individual's misfortune to their irresponsibility regarding 
the convenant community. 44 The Covenant as exhibited in the 
Ten Commandments uses the singular form throughout, bal- 
ancing the collective sense referring to Israel as a whole with 
its clearly individual application in the ethical section of it. 
The same is true with regard to the famous passage in Deute- 
ronomy, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord Our God is One Lord", 

40 Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:1 
"Ezekiel 18:20 
43 Jeremiah 31:30 

43 Jeremiah 16:3f. 

44 Haggai 1 : 2ff ; Nehemiah 2 : 1 7ff j Ezra 9 : 1 3ff . 


which is followed by the more individually directed admoni- 
tion: "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God." 45 As a matter of 
fact, the strange change of singular and plural forms in the 
Book of Deuteronomy is very likely not due to a literary source 
problem, but is to be explained simply by the interrelationship 
of individual and group as understood in the concept of "cor- 
porate personality". 

This well balanced view of individual and community in 
the Old Testament is also emphasized in the Book of Job 
which belongs to the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament. 
On the whole this kind of literature aims at general principles 
to be applied to and applying among all, yet Job represents a 
valid individual protest against a too rigid application of the 
general principle that sin and suffering are always related to 
each other. In another realm, the idea of individualism makes 
itself felt, when Israel is thinking of herself too much as a single 
unit of God's chosen as over the massa perditionis of the na- 
tions; the Psalms especially emphasize that there is a division 
individually in Israel between the sadiqim, the righteous, and 
the resa'im,, the ungodly. 

However, where individualism is stressed in the Old Testa- 
ment, and that would apply to the charismatic leaders in par- 
ticular, their activity is never used for selfish mystic contempla- 
tion, a way to intimate personal relationship with God, but for 
service to the community. The Israelite ideal is that all should 
be prophets, and the Covenant people are called a kingdom of 
priests. 46 

Communal cult practices are individualized as when the 
Old Testament speaks of the circumcision of the heart, the of- 
fering of thanksgiving by the lips ; this point is so well brought 
out in Psalm 141:2: "Let my prayer be counted as incense be- 
fore thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacri- 
fice !" We have stressed in this discussion the parts which give 
prominence to the individual within the context of the Old 
Testament, since the communal aspect is the more obvious one. 
The individual's life derives its raison d'etre from the commu- 
nity by which it is borne along, but the Old Testament never 
loses sight of the fact that the individual can also have a de- 

45 Deuteronomy 6 : 4-5 

46 Numbers 11:29; Exodus 19:6; Joel 3: 1-2 


cisive bearing on the community. Abraham's intercession for 
Sodom is a case in point, 47 and more striking still the Suffering 
Servant of Deutero- Isaiah. Here the covenant community, 
Israel, my Servant, finds its true life in the Servant of Yahweh 
who is portrayed unto us as an individual in Isaiah 53, only to 
find the fruit of his individual suffering and sacrifice in the 
community of the justified. 

In conclusion we might say that the Old Testament's bal- 
ancing of the transcendence and immanence of God, the func- 
tion of priest and prophet, and the relationship of individual 
and community, finds its counterpart in the New Testament in 
the incarnation and resurrection of our Lord, the ministry of 
word and sacrament in worship, and the concept of One Body 
and many members in the life of the Church. 

Charles Simeon is certainly right, when he says: "When 
two opposing principles are each clearly contained in the Bible, 
truth does not lie in taking what is called the golden mean, but 
in steadily adopting both extremes, and, as a pendulum, oscil- 
lating, but not vacillating between the two. 48 

47 Genesis 18:22-23 

48 A. W. Brown, Recollections of the Conversation Parties of the Rev. Charles 
Simeon, 1863, p. 74 


Can Catholics and Protestants 
Really Talk Together? 

Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr. 

During the past several years, there has been a lot of talk 
about a renewed "dialogue" between Protestantism and Cathol- 
icism. Many representatives of both sides have been under- 
standably skeptical of such talk. What can Geneva have in 
common with Rome? What could possibly come of such a 
"conversation" between Protestants and Catholics except (at 
best) the clarification and confirmation of the irreconcilable 
differences which have separated them for 400 years, or (at 
worst) the compromise or surrender of what is essential to 
one side or the other? How could we possibly "get together" 
except on the basis of an intolerably superficial theology of the 
lowest common denominator? Who could seriously hope for 
the healing of the main split which for so long has broken the 
Body of Christ, except those theologically illiterate "ecumani- 
acs" whose only creed is the sentimental conviction that the 
more we get together the happier we will be? 

Some of the talk about "the dialogue" is unquestionably 
irresponsible and sentimental. But it would be equally irre- 
sponsible and sentimental (especially for us Reformed Protest- 
ants who know that we cannot deify any past tradition, includ- 
ing our own, and that the church must be semper reformanda, 
always reforming) to refuse even to listen to the conversation 
and to investigate its possibilities. The purpose of this article 
is to show by way of a striking example, first, that it is in fact 
possible for Catholics and Protestants profitably to talk together 
without compromise or surrender; and second, that the new 
"dialogue" does offer grounds for hope that it will not be 

In 1957 Hans Kueng, a young (born in 1928) Swiss Cath- 
olic theologian, now a professor at the University of Tuebingen, 
published in German a book called Justification: The Teaching 

The substance of this paper was delivered at an interdepartmental Graduate Semi- 
nar at Emory University on April 2, 1964. Shirley Guthrie is Professor of Systematic 
Theology. He has been an active participant in a series of Inter Seminary consulta- 
tions dealing with Protestant-Roman Catholic relations. 


of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection. (The English trans- 
lation has been announced, but has not yet appeared.) The 
first part of this work examines the doctrine of justification 
(the doctrine which above all caused the split between Protes- 
tantism and Catholicism) of Karl Barth (who from the first to 
the last volume of his Church Dogmatics maintains a highly 
critical attack on Roman Catholicism, which he calls one of 
the two great modern heresies, and who as much as any past 
or present Protestant thinker has taken his stand on the Bibli- 
cal doctrine of justification) . The second part of Kueng's book 
sets over against Barth's doctrine of justification the Catholic 
doctrine as it is expressed by the ancient church fathers, con- 
temporary Catholic theologians, and especially the Council of 
Trent (the most vehemently anti-Protestant expression of the 
Counter-Reformation) . Karl Barth and the Council of Trent! 
One would have expected the most violent conflict. Indeed, 
Barth has long used the council's statement on justification as 
a prime example of the irreconcilable difference between Pro- 
testant and Catholic theology. But Kueng comes to the astound- 
ing conclusion that despite differences of emphasis and lan- 
guage, there is a "basic agreement" between the teaching of 
Barth on justification and the teaching of the Catholic Church 
(pp. 269, 274) , and that what differences there are do not have 
a church-splitting significance (4th ed., p. 366). On the other 
hand, Barth, in an introductory letter at the beginning of the 
book, praises Kueng for giving an accurate and complete ac- 
count of his doctrine, and writes, "If what you develop in your 
second part as the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church 
actually is her doctrine, then I must certainly admit that my 
doctrine of justification agrees with hers" (pp. llf.) . It is not 
surprising that a flood of reviews and discussions have followed 
the publication of such a book. It is significant that to date 
no Catholic reviewer has suggested that Kueng misrepresents 
the Catholic teaching. And while there have been many Pro- 
testant criticisms of Barth's theology at one point or another, 
I know of none which has accused Barth of "Catholic tend- 
encies" in his doctrine of justification. 

Whatever may come of this conversation between Barth 
and Kueng, here is a concrete example of a committed Cath- 
olic theologian and a committed Protestant theologian who 
can not only talk together, but discover an amazing common 


ground precisely at a point where agreement could be least 
expected. Such a remarkable conversation is surely worth 
listening to. 

In the limited space available here, we shall concentrate 
on the Catholic side of the conversation. That is, we will omit 
Kueng's careful description and evaluation of Barth's doctrine, 
and listen to his statement of the Catholic position in relation 
to Barth's. First we shall summarize Kueng's general evaluation 
of the difference and yet (within the difference) basic unity 
between Catholic theology and Barth (whom he considers a 
contemporary representative of classical Reformed Protestan- 
tism) . Then we shall summarize more specifically some of the 
main points Kueng makes in answering Barth's objections to the 
Catholic doctrine of justification. We shall save our judgments 
and questions until the end. The reader will have a much 
clearer understanding of the points at issue if he has before 
him the canons and decrees of the sixth session of the Council 
of Trent (see P. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, or John 
H. Leith, Creeds of the Churches). 

In general, Kueng sees the problem of the relation between 
Catholicism and the "radical Protestantism" of Barth in terms 
of the place of God and the place of man in Christian theology. 
Even more than classical Protestantism Barth is so concerned 
to preserve the sovereignty and majesty and free grace of God 
that he seems to lose man. And on the other hand, Barth's 
criticism of Catholicism is that in its concern to give man his 
proper place, it loses God. Barth repeats over and over again 
in different forms the same question: Does Catholicism take 
God seriously, his power, his righteousness, his grace? How can 
man be given his due if the God who alone created and pre- 
serves and judges and saves him is slighted? But does not 
Catholic theology do just that with its natural theology, its 
analogia entis, its superficial view of sin, its confidence in man's 
ability to "cooperate" in his own salvation, its naturalization 
of grace so that it becomes man's possession? Is not the whole 
of Catholic theology finally man's attempt to master and con- 
trol God, and thus both the denial of God and just for that 
reason the self-destruction of the very man this theology claims 
to be so interested in? 


But the Catholic answer to Protestantism in general and 
most especially to Barth is: How can you claim to take God 
seriously if you make God everything and man nothing? Do 
you not deny the very power and grace of God you want to 
defend when you have so little regard for the independent 
existence and goodness of the world he himself willed and 
created, when you refuse to recognize the free will and ration- 
ality he himself gave to man, when you refuse to let the grace 
of God work not just for and over but in man, so that he him- 
self actually is helped and changed? 

Kueng admits that Barth's radical Protestantism does tend 
to emphasize God at the cost of man, and that in reaction to the 
one-sided Protestant position Barth represents, Catholic the- 
ology has sometimes tended to emphasize man at the cost of 
God. But he argues, and this is the main thrust of his book, that 
the very thing which makes Barth stand so exclusively for the 
sovereign grace of God also enables him to overcome the one- 
sidedness of Protestantism : his Christology. And on the other 
side, the very thing which legitimizes the Catholic insistence 
on the due place of creation-nature-man enables Catholicism 
to overcome its one-sidedness: Christology! In Kueng's words, 
"It is all one question: the question of God and man in the 
salvation event ; that is the question about God's becoming man 
and about God's becoming man" (p. 267f.). Protestant the- 
ology at its best is not interested abstractly in God, but con- 
cretely in the God who became man in Jesus Christ. And 
Catholic theology at its best is not interested abstractly in man, 
but concretely in the life of the man whose origin and reality 
and goal can be understood only in terms of the one man who 
was God with us. A proper Christocentric theology can make 
neither the "Protestant" mistake of separating God and man 
in the interest of God, nor the "Catholic" mistake of confusing 
or mixing up God and man in the interest of man. In Christ 
God and man can be neither separated nor confused. Neither 
the real existence and life of man nor the sovereign grace of 
God can be slighted. With a proper Christological foundation, 
why cannot man and God, reason and faith, analogia entis and 
analogia fidei, being and history, be at once included and prop- 
erly distinguished? 

Kueng argues that both sides are included and properly 


relates both in Barth as in Catholic theology. He tends to 
believe that both sides are more easily included and better 
stated in a Catholic framework, and that Catholicism at its 
best has never officially excluded the Protestant emphasis — 
not even at Trent. He thinks that Barth has terribly misunder- 
stood Catholicism even as he has in fact included what Ca- 
tholicism insists upon, and that as a consequence he still tends 
to over-emphasize the Protestant side. But the main difference 
between Barthian and Catholic theology is nevertheless one 
of emphasis and terminology, not of basic content. They do not 
finally say something different, but the same thing in different 
ways. Kueng knows that all problems are by no means solved 
by saying that both Catholicism and Protestantism can find 
common ground in a theology built on the Christ who is at 
once true God and true man. But he does think this common 
ground furnishes the basis for real discussion instead of the 
direct opposition or simply speaking past one another which 
has been typical of past Protestant-Catholic discussions. 


Now how does this general statement of the relation be- 
tween Catholic theology and Barth's Protestant theology look 
when it is expressed specifically in terms of the doctrine of 
justification? Barth, with traditional Protestantism, puts this 
question to the Catholic side: Does the Catholic doctrine of 
jusification take justification seriously as the gracious sovereign 
act of God? Or does it not in the last analysis only talk in one 
way or another about the achievement of man? And Kueng, 
with traditional Catholicism, puts this question to Barth : Does 
Barth's doctrine of justification really take seriously the fact 
that man is justified? Or does he not say in the last analysis 
that justification is only an empty "forensic" word of God, and 
that man himself is not really involved and really touched and 
helped? These are the same questions which have been asked 
for 400 years : Does Catholicism take God seriously, and does 
Protestantism take man seriously? 

As noted above, we must omit Kung's defence of Barth 
here. After carefully examining Barth's doctrine of justifica- 
tion, along with its presuppositions and consequences, in terms 
of all the strongest suspicions of Catholic theology, he con- 
cludes that Barth (more clearly than traditional Protestantism) 


does indeed properly include man. For Barth justification is 
not an empty "as if" which does not really touch sinful men. 
In Christ God's justifying word is also a powerful justifying 
action which in fact renews and gives life to the man who was 
dead in sin but now is alive to righteousness. Barth does not 
(as also some Protestant critics have argued) make God every- 
thing and man nothing; precisely the justifying work which 
God alone accomplishes sets man on his feet so that he can 
and does freely, actively do "good works." 

Our main concern here, however, is with Kueng's answer 
to Barth's question: Does the Roman Catholic doctrine of 
justification take justification seriously as the gracious sovereign 
act of God? Yes, argues Kueng, although he admits that this 
"yes" has not always been equally clear, especially when, as 
in the Council of Trent, one-sided statements have been given 
in reaction to one-sided Protestantism. Kueng defends Catholic 
doctrine at this point from several different points of view. His 
procedure in each case is first to listen to the word of scripture 
with a careful exegesis, and then to examine the authoritative 
documents of the Church, depending especially on Trent, as 
well as the theology of the fathers and contemporary Catholic 
thinkers. (Note: Catholic Kueng places scripture before tradi- 
tion and church in good "Protestant" procedure ! ) In the fol- 
lowing pages we shall look at Kueng's answer to some of the 
various forms of Barth's one basic question, whether the 
Catholic doctrine of justification takes seriously the free, sov- 
ereign grace of God. 

1. Does Catholic doctrine take with complete seriousness 
the total sinfulness and helplessness of man, and therefore the 
total dependence of man on God for justification? According 
to Trent itself (chapter I), man is "the servant of sin, and 
under the power of the devil and of death." Sin is thus much 
more than the "loss of a decorative accident or a white cloak 
of grace." It is an attack on the substance and heart of man. 
Sinful man still exists as man, but he is totally unable to do 
anything toward self -justification (Canon I). Protestants will 
want to test how seriously this is meant by asking the question : 
Is the sinner free or unfree? Kueng answers that we must define 
the meaning of freedom. In the New Testament freedom never 
means simply freedom of choice, but "freedom of the children 


of God." According to the Bible and the Catholic Church, 
also the sinner has freedom of choice, but this does not mean 
that he is free in a theological sense. If the power of choice is 
exercised with grace, it is free power of choice. If it is against 
or without grace, it is unfree power of choice. Real freedom is 
given to the sinner only with the grace of Christ. This is essen- 
tially the way Barth and classical Protestantism also deal with 
the problem of "free will." But do not Catholics believe that 
man is only "partly" sinful so that at least a "part" of him can 
cooperate in self -justifying, saving works? Kueng answers (and 
both rationalistic and pietistic Protestants would do well to 
learn from him!) : the whole man is sinful, senses and under- 
standing (reason) and will and "heart," body and soul — the 
total person. Consequently, Kueng insists, Catholics do take seri- 
ously the sinfulness of man, his inability to do anything toward 
justifying himself, and therefore his total dependence on the 
grace of God. 

2. When Catholics speak of grace, do they really speak 
of God, or are they really speaking only of man who "has" 
grace? Does grace not refer to a human state of grace rather 
than to God's work of grace, to gifts of grace which man con- 
trols rather than to the favor of God which controls man? Is 
grace not made something physical rather than recognized as 
something personal? Again Kueng bases his answer first of all 
on exegesis, and answers: On the contrary, although the- 
ologically-systematically and practically-pastorally it has not 
always been remembered, Catholic theology has always known 
that grace is personal not physical, a being and doing of God 
himself. It is not a third thing between God and man, but 
God himself in action. It is never a matter of my having grace, 
but of his being gracious. In grace I do not have God ; he has 

On the other hand, this also has to be said : Grace as the 
favor of God does not go into a vacuum. It is not powerless 
but powerful in relation to the sinner. Grace accomplishes 
something in man. It changes him inwardly. God gives man 
participation in his own life and work. God himself takes pos- 
session of man and dwells within him. This is all the Catholic 
Church meant to say with the distinction between gratia creata 
and gratia increata which so horrifies Barth (cf. CD. IV/1, pp. 


84f f . ) . Not that there is a second kind of grace, not that grace 
is first of all the gracious action of God, but then secondly 
"something" which becomes man's independent possession, but 
simply that God's personal favour actually accomplishes some- 
thing with and in man. The one grace of God has these two 
moments or aspects — the objective and the subjective. Al- 
though Barth misunderstands the Catholic theology and its 
intent, he says exactly the same thing — that grace is the work 
of God alone (gratia increata in Catholic language), but also 
that God's gracious action really reaches man (gratia creata 
in Catholic language) . 

3. When Catholics speak of justification, do they not so 
emphasize the man who is justified and his righteousness that 
they forget to speak of justification as God's act? Is not every- 
thing reversed so that man really begins and completes justi- 
fication for himself? 

The Protestant-Catholic debate on justification has clas- 
sically been stated in terms of the distinction between Gerecht- 
sprechung and Gere chtmac hung. Protestants have insisted that 
it is a Gerechtsprechung — a declaration or "forensic" procla- 
mation of God. It is not a recognition that man is in fact 
righteous, nor even the creating or fulfilling of righteousness 
in him; it is purely the verbal act of God in relation not to a 
potentially or actually righteous man, but in relation to sinful 
man. This obviously stresses the fact that justification is a pure 
act of God's grace. Catholics have emphasized that justification 
is a Gerechtmachung — a making righteous, in which man is 
not just declared to be righteous in God's sight, but actually 
becomes righteous. On the basis first of Biblical exegesis and 
then with an analysis of Catholic doctrine, Kung argues that 
this is a false alternative. According to scripture, justification 
undoubtedly means first of all a judgment of God, a verbal 
decision about man who is in fact not righteous but unrighteous. 
It is precisely the unrighteous man who is justified. God deals 
with us as if we had not sinned. Despite our sin God declares 
the sinner to be righteous. But the other thing must be said: 
If it is God who declares a man righteous, this declaration can- 
not be just an empty word. It does what it says, accomplishes 
what it declares. When God speaks, it is done: the sinner 
actually is renewed, made righteous, really and truly, outwardly 


and inwardly, fully and completely. What was not so before 
he spoke his justifying word, now is so. 

Catholics have not always seen the objective side of jus- 
tification as clearly as the subjective side — especially when as 
at Trent they over-emphasized the subjective in opposition to 
the Lutheran over- emphasis on the objective. But even Trent 
presupposes the forensic-theocentric aspect. It only denies that 
men are justified solely by imputation or remission (Canon 
XI), and insists that "we are not only reputed, but are truly 
called and are just, receiving justice within us (chap. 7). If 
the first aspect is not made as clear as the second, it must be 
remembered that Trent is not intended to be a full statement 
of the doctrine of jusification, but only a polemic against the 
one-sided Protestant interpretation. As Cardinal Newman wrote 
about the resulting one-sidedness of Trent : "... when the Ro- 
man schools are treating of one point of theology, they are not 
treating of other points. When the Council of Trent is treating 
of man, it is not treating of God. Its enunciations are isolated 
and defective, taken one by one, of course" (quoted in Kueng, 
p. 215). 

Kueng asserts that Barth has corrected the one-sided Pro- 
testant idea that justification is only an empty forensic "as if" 
which actually changes nothing in man's situation. And now 
we see how Kueng clarifies (not "corrects"!) the one-sided 
Catholic emphasis in the other direction. His conclusion con- 
cerning the doctrine which triggered the Reformation and has 
split the Church ever since: "The Protestants speak of Gere- 
chtsprechung and Catholics of Gerechtmachung. But the Prot- 
estants speak of Gerechtsprechung which includes Gerechtma- 
chung, and the Catholics of Gerechtmachung which presup- 
poses Gerechtsprechung. Is it not time to stop polemically 
speaking past one another?" (218). 

4. When does justification happen? In the objective event 
of Christ's death and resurrection, or in the subjective event 
of man's coming to faith in Christ? Do not the Catholics (in 
common with Protestant pietism ! ) also from this point of view 
emphasize the subjective at the expense of the objective? Kueng 
discovers here the same basic distinction and unity in Prot- 
estant and Catholic views we have already mentioned, but it is 
important to mention the question in this form, because it 


raises a problem of terminology which he believes has unneces- 
sarily set us against each other. 

Scripture says both : It is in Christ that justification hap- 
pened, yet only he who believes is justified. Objective event 
and subjective realization. And both Catholic and Protestants 
say both things, but with different words so that they have not 
undersood each other. Barth (with classical Protestantism) 
uses "justification" to speak of the objective event — God acts 
for us, apart from us, in Christ. But when Trent (and Cathol- 
icism following Trent) uses the word "justification," it thinks 
of the subjective side — man's realization of justification in 
faith. Barth too knows of this inner justification, but he uses 
"sanctification" to speak of it. And Trent too knows about 
and presupposes the objective side, but it uses "redemption" 
or "salvation" to speak of it (cf., chap. II) : 

Barth Trent 

objective justification redemption 

subjective sanctification justification 

So Barth inevitably misunderstands Trent, accusing Catholi- 
cism of confusing justification and sanctification. Instead of 
comparing his "justification" with Trent's "redemption," he 
compares his objective factor with Trent's subjective factor. 
If only he had read the little chaper II of Trent carefully, he 
would have understood that Trent explicitly affirms what he 
(with traditional Protestantism) wants to hear: in Christ God 
has done everything for sinful men who could do nothing for 

Both Barth and Catholicism know that there is one act of 
God's grace which can only be seen from two sides : active and 
passive, origin and fulfillment, what God does and what man 
receives, event and its result. Protestants and Catholics have 
not understood each other's language, and they have in fact 
over-emphasized one side against the other. But once again: 
why should we continue this unnecessary opposition? 

5. But what about Trent's notorious statements about 
man's "cooperation" in justification? Do they not expose 
Catholicism's failure to see that justification and redemption 
are God's work alone? 


Kueng argues again that once the difficulty in terminology 
is straightened out, this problem automatically takes care of 
itself. Trent does not speak of man's cooperation when it thinks 
of God's objective act of salvation (chap. II), but only when 
it speaks of the subjective side. It also knows and explicitly 
says that man is totally incapable of any self-justification 
(Canon I) . What it intends to say with its insistence on man's 
cooperation is only that when God justifies a man, he makes 
man alive to become the partner or fellow- worker (a good 
Pauline concept ! ) of the covenant-making God — a partner 
who personally and responsibly and actively says "yes" to God 
in response to God's "yes" to him. The Tridentine cooperari 
is no synergism which claims that justification is partly from 
God and partly from man. Everything comes from God, includ- 
ing man's cooperation. But from God's Alleswirksamkeit (all- 
working) does not follow his Alleinwirksamkeit (alone-work- 
ing) ; rather the result precisely of his Alleswirksamkeit is man's 
Mitwirksamkeit (with-working) (p. 258). Man's cooperation 
is not even partly the cause of what Protestants mean when 
they speak of justification, but man's cooperation does follow 
justification and is a real consequence of it. How can Barth 
object to this kind of cooperation? It is nothing different from 
what he himself says is inevitably the subjective concomitant of 
God's objective work in Christ — although he calls it "sancti- 
fication" or "calling." 

But this raises again the problem of the relation between 
justification and sanctification — and still another misunder- 
standing of terminology. "Sanctification" is an ambiguous 
term. Catholics understand it to mean the objective-ontic 
"holiness" (Heiligkeit) worked by God in man. Protestants un- 
derstand it to be the subjective-ethical sanctification (Heili- 
gung) realized by man (through God's grace, of course) . Both 
interpretations are correct (i.e., Biblical) if one understands 
the distinction in their unity. In so far as justification is through 
faith alone, and not the works of man, it is not the same as 
sanctification in the subjective-ethical sense. In this sense sanc- 
tification follows justification. But in so far as justification 
actually makes a man righteous or holy, it is the same thing as 
sanctification in the sense of an objective-ontic work of God. 
Otherwise God's justification would only be an empty word. 


Again, because Protestants and Catholics have used the 
same word in a different sense, they have spoken past each 
other when they really intended to say the same thing! The 
righteousness or holiness given through the justification of God 
is the necessary foundation for the ethical sanctification of a 
man, and vice versa, sanctification is the becoming active and 
fulfillment of the holiness given by justification. Human sanc- 
tification is the goal and result of God-given holiness. And God- 
given holiness is the ground of human sanctification. This is 
how Barth explains the relation between justification and sanc- 
tification, and it is also exactly how Trent explains the "fruit 
of justification" in chapter XVI. 

6. But there is one more question: Do not Catholics 
forget that the justified man is still a sinner? Even if it is ad- 
mitted that before he "receives the grace of justification" he is 
totally helpless and sinful in himself, do not Catholics prac- 
tically believe that after he receives it, he becomes more or less 
self-sufficient? In other words, what about the Reformation 
slogan semper Justus et peccator? 

Kueng believes, as we have seen, that we must say that the 
justified man is really righteous, also inwardly, in his heart. 
Justification is not an empty "as if." But "no Catholic can 
deny the semper Justus et peccator when it is rightly under- 
stood" (p. 232). The Roman mass is the clearest expression 
that this is a part of Catholic theology, for in the mass both 
priest and people confess their sin. But how is this to be ex- 
plained? Two lines of thought, which may also be found in 
Trent, explain that and how a man may be at once truly and 
really "just" and yet still a sinner — and, argues Kueng, they 
are basically two lines of thought which Barth also follows. 

(a) Justification is a history, not a static state. The justi- 
fied man is always in via. At any given moment he is still the 
man he was as well as the man he is destined to be in Christ. 
What he is can only be defined in terms both of his past and his 
future. "Having been justified . . . they are renewed day by day" 
(Trent, chap. X) . Every day the justified man moves from his 
sinful past to his future righteousness in Christ. 

(b) Everything the justified man has, he has as the fruit 
of grace, so that in terms of its origin any righteousness he dis- 


plays is a righteousness "foreign" to him. It comes to him from 
above, outside himself, and in this sense is not his own. 

But to press the point a little further : In what sense is this 
"both-and" to be understood? Totus (totally) righteous and 
totus sinful, or partim (partly) righteous and partim sinful? 
For protestants everything depends on whether the "both-and" 
means totus-totus and not partim- partim. Although Kueng 
speaks postively of Barth's interpretation in the former sense, 
he is strangely silent about this alternative when he comes to the 
Catholic position. He says that also the justified man is "cap- 
able" of sin, remains on the "dangerous boundary-line" of sin, 
has a "continuing tendency" to sin. But is not the sinfulness of 
the justified man more serious than that? Kueng does not say. 
Nevertheless, he does defend the semper Justus et peccator as 
such, and asserts that Catholics generally may affirm what 
Luther wanted to say with this phrase — that the state of justi- 
fication is a status viatoris (state of "being on the way"), and 
that the righteousness it brings always remains a given right- 

We have obviously been able here only to suggest the main 
thrust of Kueng's argument for the "basic agreement" between 
the Catholic and Barth teaching on justification. He builds his 
case in a much more convincing way that can be summarized 
in a few pages. His Biblical exegesis is careful and compre- 
hensive. His knowledge of Barth is precise (how many of us 
Prostestants can speak competently, from first-hand knowledge, 
of Catholic theology?). The number of citations of relevant 
passages from past and present Catholic literature is stagger- 
ing, and the support he is able to muster from this literature 
impressive. His conclusion is not cheaply won. And anyone who 
has read Barth's repeated indictment of Catholicism will know 
that his approval is certainly not cheaply given. 

Why this astonishing agreement on both sides? Both Barth 
(in his introductory letter) and Kueng insist that it is not be- 
cause Barth has become a crypto-Catholic or Kueng a crypto- 
Protestant (though Barth does wonder why Kueng's interpre- 
tation of the Catholic position has so long remained hidden 
both within and without Catholicism, and comments that he 
would like to whisper in Kueng's ear the question whether he 
himself discovered all he says about the Catholic doctrine of 


justification before or during or perhaps after he read the 
Church Dogmatics!). Kueng's fundamental explanation, to 
which Barth also refers, is that each of them has looked at his 
own tradition and the other's tradition in the common mirror 
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is because of this that Barth 
can write to Kueng: "We are separated in faith, namely in the 
same faith, because and in that we may believe in the same 


What conclusions can we draw from this "dialogue" be- 
tween Kueng and Barth? Obviously not that all questions have 
now been answered which Catholics and Protestants have to 
ask each other — not even with regard to the single doctrine 
we have considered. Neither Kueng nor Barth makes such a 
wild claim. Both of them point out the hard work still to be done 
at this point — not to mention the whole complex of difficult 
problems grouped around the doctrines of Church and sacra- 
ments. It seems to me, however, that this paricular conversation 
at the very least teaches us three important things which can 
be of great help as we follow, try to evaluate, and perhaps parti- 
cipate in, the broader "dialogue" between Catholics and Pro- 
testants which will certainly be continued and expanded in the 
years to come: (1) A genuine conversation is possible and 
fruitful between Catholics and Protestants just when the two 
sides do not begin with a tolerant search for the lowest common 
denominator, but rather when each without compromise and 
with careful theological discipline takes seriously its own tra- 
dition, and on that basis listens to and even lets itself be cor- 
rected by the other. ( 2 ) A genuine conversation is possible and 
fruitful when both Catholics and Protestants give themselves 
to the common task of exegesis of their common Bible. (There 
is evidence that more careful exegetical work than ever before 
is being done on the Catholic side. If we Protestants are going 
to be qualified to talk with Biblically informed Catholics, we 
had better be sure that we are armed not just with strong con- 
victions about the Bible, but with a thorough familiarity with 
what is written in the Bible!) (3) A genuine conversation is 
possible and fruitful when each side discovers that in its own 
tradition theology and anthropology, anthropology and theo- 
logy, meet and each receives its due in the God-man Jesus 


Christ. To say that the Bible offers the common ground for 
a meaningful dialogue is to say that Christology is the ground 
where the questions will be asked and the answers given which 
could bring Catholics and Protestants together in "one holy 
catholic apostolic Church." 

How, then, shall we greet the much-advertised Protestant- 
Catholic dialogue? When these three conditions are fulfilled, 
we can greet it as Barth says he greets Kueng's book : like Noah 
looking out the window of his ark, finding a clear symptom 
that the flood of the times when Catholic and Protestant theo- 
logians either spoke only polemically against each other, or 
with an irresponsible pacifism did not speak to each other at 
all, is not past but at least is subsiding. Carrying the analogy 
a little further: it would be foolish for us naively to rush out 
of our ark as if the danger outside were past. But it would be 
faithless for us not to look out the window for signs that the 
flood is sinking. We can at least keep the window open, and be 
ready and willing to send out the dove — even at the risk of 
doing so several times prematurely, before the time is ripe. 
Otherwise we may find that our safe ark has become stuffy and 
dark — and smelly. 


Moral Values In Society 

Thomas H. McDill 

In a society which is democratically structured, moral 
values are of prime significance. In a totalitarian structure, 
such values may well reside in designated authorities with 
means of enforcement. In the democratic society a legal struc- 
ture will exist which will set limits on the exercise of the free- 
dom of individuals. At the same time, within the legal limits, 
there exists a freedom which makes the question implied by 
our subject of significance to us. To exist, such a society rests 
upon the presupposition that there is the possibility of internal 
control by individuals within the social structure. 

In American culture in particular, there has been a tend- 
ency toward extremes. The freedom created by the broad limits 
of the legal structure gives the individual citizen the right of 
decision with consequent risks. This is anxiety producing. To 
handle this anxiety, there has been a tendency toward con- 
formism, each individual feeling secure by conforming to the 
manners and customs of his group. This is a subtle imposition of 
a rigidly legal structure on behavior in addition to the broad 
legal structure of the society. 

On the other hand, the opposite swing of the pendulum 
involves a kind of rebellion or licentiousness. In this group we 
discover the anti-social persons, the delinquents, the criminals. 

Significantly, in such groups as this, we concern ourselves 
too much with the anti-social group, but fail to recognize that 
those who are the conformists and are imposing a secret legal 
structure upon themselves, are simply at the opposite swing 
of the pendulum and are in the same psychological condition. 

David Riesman has written quite well to this point. 1 He 
speaks of people as being tradition- directed, inner-directed, or 
other-directed. The tradition-directed people are those whose 
social character is formed in societies not anticipating severe 

This address was recently delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Mental 
Health Association. Thomas H. McDill, apart from his work as Professor of Pastoral 
Theology and Counseling, has exercised a creative role within the life of the com- 
munity in relation to the needs of alcoholics and other emotionally disturbed people. 

1 David Riesman, et ah, The Lonely Crowd. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 


changes in populations or technology. Each generation as- 
sumes that the following generation will live much as it lives. 
However, in a rapidly expanding society, inner-direction ap- 
pears to be the answer. Tradition still helps, but the important 
thing is for the elders to implant in their children a sense of 
direction toward life's goals. The growing child cannot be 
guided every step of the way by his parents, but it is the direc- 
tion that counts; and the parents can give the child a kind of 
gyroscope that will serve to maintain balance and direction in 
every situation. Other-direction is now increasingly dominant. 
Instead of a gyroscope, the other-directed person has a radar- 
scope. Rather than having this set toward a goal, the other- 
directed man is not told where to go or how to get there except 
as he may receive "signals" from "the others." "The others" 
are usually "other-directeds" without fixed goals also. 

As Riesman puts it: "What is common to all other- 
directeds is that their contemporaries are the source of direc- 
tion for the individual — either those known to him or with 
whom he is indirectly acquainted, through friends and through 
the mass media. This source is, of course, 'internalized' in the 
sense that dependence on it for guidance in life is implanted 
early. The goals toward which the other-directed persons strive 
shifts with that guidance : it is only the process of striving itself 
and the process of paying close attention to signals from others 
that remain unaltered through life." 

"Other-directed" youngsters go to school to learn the pro- 
cess of living together in this society. They are classified, cate- 
gorized, graded and seated not according to what they can 
accomplish nor according to aptitudes, but in accordance with 
their ability to cooperate. And with what are they to cooperate? 
Cooperation! "The children are supposed to learn democracy 
by underplaying the skills of intellect and overplaying the skills 
of gregariousness and amiability — skill democracy, in fact, 
based on ability to do something, tends to survive only in 

In regard to these subtle structures that are imposed upon 
individuals, so difficult to deal with because of their subtlety, 
how is the individual to find freedom that will enable him to 
make ethical decisions and to live in a non-destructive fashion? 
It is my own opinion that we will never get to the heart of this 


unless we can begin to understand the conscience. It is my in- 
tention now to point to some significant factors involved in a 
conscience, which is a necessary aspect of the personality in- 
volved in socialization, and trust that further understanding 
will enable us to work together for a better society. 

First of all, we look at psychological treatments. The first 
meaning given in modern psychology of conscience was that 
conscience is a simple, social introjection, that is, the infant 
takes for granted the things the people around him take for 
granted. The child, as he grows, absorbs the ideas of right and 
wrong, just as he absorbs a particular language. The social 
morals then become the individual's morals. 2 

This is the foundation of society. According to Freud, if 
there were no conscience socialization would be impossible. 3 
Flexibility arising out of prolonged infancy makes socialization 
a possibility. That is, if it were not for the flexibility of the 
human being which is contingent upon the length of infancy, 
the surrounding culture would not have the influence on the 
child it does, because patterns of living would be formed too 
quickly, as in the case of the lower animals. 4 

With this kind of approach, we would say that conscience 
is an unlearned capacity, i.e., a person is born with the capacity 
for a conscience, but the conscience is unformed. Returning to 
the language analogy, a baby will first babble. We raise the 
question, "What would happen if babies did not first babble?" 
The answer growing out of research is that a baby that cannot 
first babble cannot learn to speak. What happens is that the 
baby first babbles and the pattern of speech is built into that 

2 For fuller development of the social introjection theory, the following may be 
helpful: Gordon W. Allport, Becoming. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955), 
Ch. 16, "Conscience". Gordon W. Allport, Pattern and Growth in Personality. 
(N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1961), pp 134 ff., 303 f. Seward Hilt- 
ner, Self-Understanding. (N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951), Ch. VI, "Knotty 
Conscience". Gardner Murphy, Personality. (N.Y. : Harper and Bros., 1947), pp. 
540 ff. 

3 Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id. (London: Hogarth Press, 1949), Joan 
Riviere, tran., Ch. Ill, "The Ego and the Super-Ego (Ego-Ideal)". 

* For a full discussion and treatment of this necessary flexibility in human beings 
see the work of Lawrence K. Frank, Nature and Human Nature. (New Brunswick, 
New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1951), esp. Ch. Ill, "The Internal Environ- 


babble. After the child learns to make certain noises, associa- 
tion of meaning begins from hearing parents and others speak. 5 

Conscience is similar. Conscience is an unlearned capacity 
patterned by society. This is a general development in the life 
of any child. We would say psychologically that there is nothing 
wrong with this type of process and it does not need to warp 

How the demands are placed on the child are usually more 
important than what demands are placed on the child. For a 
good illustration of the way this internalizing process takes 
place, note the illustration in Gordon W. Airport's book, 
Becoming 6 . "Turning to the three year old we may see more 
clearly the role of parental identification in the struggle to 
internalize the voice of conscience. I am indebted for this 
example to my colleague, Henry A. Murray. A three-year-old 
boy awoke at 6 : 00 in the morning and started his noisy play. 
The father, sleepy-eyed, went to the boy's room and sternly 
commanded him 'Get back into bed and don't you dare get up 
until 7 :00 o'clock.' The boy obeyed. For a few minutes all was 
quiet, but soon there were strange sounds which led the father 
to look into the room. The boy was in bed as ordered, but 
putting an arm over the edge, he jerked it back in saying, £ Get 
back in there'. Next a leg protruded, only to be retracted, with 
the warning, 'You heard what I told you.' Finally the boy rolled 
to the very edge of the bed and then roughly rolled back, sternly 
warning himself, 'Not until 7:00!' We could not wish for a 
clearer instance of interiorizing the father's role as a means of 
self control and socialized becoming." That is to say, the father 
actually becomes a part of the emotional core of the child. 

The cardinal thing in regard to Airport's treatment is the 
question of whether or not the demands made upon the child 
were made in such a way that they have to break the child's 
spirit in order to make the child do what the parents think 
is right. 

For example, a mother feels the responsibility of getting 
her child to bathe himself. If we could observe two different 
procedures, we might see the difference. One we could call 

"Arnold Gesell, et al., The First Five Years of Life. (N.Y.: Harper and Bros., 


6 Op. cit } p. 70. 


the causal method of instructing the child. The mother is bath- 
ing the little boy and realizes he has sufficient control of body 
movements to begin bathing himself. She therefore with 
motherly smile encourages him to take the soap and the wash- 
cloth and wash his hands. She praises him although he does 
a rather poor job of it, offering considerable encouragement to 
him to proceed. We then step into a neighbor's home with a 
boy of the same age. The mother in the second home is aware 
of the fact that according to the book it is time for her boy to 
be bathing himself. She abruptly spaks to the child after lower- 
ing him into the bath water, "Do it yourself." With that she 
walks off and leaves him. He cries, but her only response would 
be to continue to order him to bathe himself until he obeyed. 
With both of these methods you can achieve the same result 
with your children, i.e., the children will learn to bathe them- 
selves. The authoritarian way will probably produce quicker 
results, but what a difference there will be internally, because 
the conscience, developed through the process of introjection, 
is completely different in the two children. In the first instance, 
the idea of cleanliness is being instilled in the child as a matter 
of selfhood and achievement, therefore the personality will not 
be warped. In the second instance, the child has been made to 
comply, the spirit is in the process of being broken, making him 
morbidly dependent upon the will and orders of others, result- 
ing in his spending his life trying to escape freedom, seeking 
an authoritarian structure. The entire conscience phenomenon 
is affected by these two types of treatment. 

This is the psychological treatment in general. We need to 
be more specific with certain individual treatments, Freud, 
for example, had developed his concept of the super-ego by the 
1920's. 7 In speaking of the super-ego, he did not speak of simple 
introjection in the way that Allport does. He held that the 
assimilation of conscience involves compliance initially, but 
the conscience or super-ego is really a pushing down of the ego, 
super-ego meaning over-I, and we get the picture of the over-I 
pushing down, forcing the ego into submission. He saw the 
process of super-ego formation as an initial fragmentation of 
what the child wants to do and what he has to do. And yet he 

7 James Strochy (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund 
Freud. 24 Volumes. (London: Hogarth and the Institute of Psycho-analysis, 1953), 
Vol. XIV. 


does not know whether he is fulfilling himself or not. The super- 
ego is largely unconscious and is the primary agent of the psyche 
which is operating in repression. By repressing in accordance 
with the demands of authorities in the same way he represses 
the instinctual impulses, sex and aggression, all of this becomes 
inaccessible to the conscious mind. In this way, the conscience 
is formed. 

Franz Alexander, 8 who follows in the Freudian stream of 
thought, would say something like this: The super-ego is not 
completely against the instinctual energies, as Freud believed. 
Far from being what it appears, there is a secret alliance be- 
tween the super-ego and the id. A kind of legalism goes on 
similar to a court transaction. We can imagine, in mythological 
terms, the Super-ego as a great authoritarian boss, saying to 
the Ego, "That's wrong, don't do that!" The Ego experiences 
this as anxiety, Ego responds, "Well, since you say so, and make 
me anxious, I'll comply. I won't do it." The Ego now feels at 
ease. Suddenly Id speaks up, "Do it anyway because you'll have 
lots of fun." Then the Super-ego speaks to the Id, "I'm tired of 
arguing with you, and I'm going to let you come out, but you've 
got to come out the back door." Then he speaks to Ego, "you 
are going to get punished on account of Id." So the instinctive 
impulses sneak out the back door in all kinds of bizarre ways. 
Here's a woman, for example, who would never give way to 
her sexual desires in licentious behaviour but nevertheless she 
takes great delight in what she calls smutty jokes, thus gaining 
sexual satisfaction by words instead of action. Consider one 
of our students who believes that it is not good for a Christian 
to blacken his brother's eye or break his brother's nose in a 
fight, but he'd not hesitate, for example, to short sheet him, 
or to play other practical jokes on him, including throwing 
water at him in a paper bag. Id gets out the back door. This 
is the compromise formation which determines much of our 
silly and childlike behaviour. 

In all of this treatment of conscience we begin to see 
something about the paradox of opposites. This is an actual 
example. An unmarried woman 55 or 60 years of age, was 
meticulously clean. According to the report, you could not find 

8 Franz Alexander, Psychoanalysis of the Total Personality. Bernard Glueck and 
Bertram D. Lewin, trans. (N.Y.: Mental Disease Publishing Co., 1930). 


dust on anything, and everything was always in order. She 
would feel extremely uncomfortable because of the compulsive 
nature of this, if anything was dirty or our of order. When she 
saw things out of place, she went to work immediately to get 
them back in order, stacked them up, put them away. Children 
often went to see this woman because she gained ego satisfac- 
tion by getting children to like her. In this way she was very 
much like "Grandma" of comic strip fame, i.e., her ego satis- 
factions were met by her demands upon the children that they 
like her by giving them cookies and cake all the time, by acting 
very much like them when they were with her. Nevertheless, 
when the children would leave, she would go to work immedi- 
ately to get up every speck of dust, and to put up everything 
that was out of order by their play. The children going by her 
home one day noticed that instead of things being in order 
they were in greater disarray than they could ever have im- 
agined. Clothes were scattered on the floor, the floor had not 
been swept. It frightened them, and alarmed, they ran home 
and told their parents. Their parents went to see the woman. 
She was unkept and dirty herself, her hair was uncombed. 

What this is saying is that there was a connection between 
the disorderliness and the neatness all along. These are op- 
posites only in appearance and they are positively related in the 
psyche, which is to say that legalism and antinomianism, con- 
formism and rebellion, and the stringent and authoritarian 
control of the self and others and licentious behaviour, sexual 
impotence and sexual license are all symptomatic of the same 
psychic condition. It is a matter of making a choice in the 
psyche as to which direction will be taken. 

To state this in a different way, this is like saying that one 
can become either vegetable or animal, the whole matter boils 
down to having an unintegrated, legalistic conscience. The 
neatness of the woman referred to was not for neatness sake, 
but out of a sense of obligation and necessity which does not 
constitute an adequate reason for neatness. If at any point a 
person with this kind of legalistic conscience realized that the 
former way of keeping everything in absolute order is not going 
to be a satisfactory way, they may appear to be moving to the 
opposite kind of behavior; but the difficulty is that there is 
lack of proper reason for behavior in the first place. The com- 


pulsive neatness was the internalized parental voice which had 
been so completely interiorized within herself that mother and 
father were still giving the orders within her own emotional 
core. Just as a growing child in an authoritarian family struc- 
ture has the choice of either conforming and letting his spirit 
be broken or becoming delinquent, so does the individual in 
response to the internalized demands of the conscience have 
this same choice: either to conform to this conscience or to 
become delinquent. The woman conformed as long as she 
could, and then she became delinquent. The same conscience 
was operating in both conditions. 

The questions that have led to this conclusion came from 
adult patients, i.e., the business man who longed for a vaca- 
tion, but with an opportunity to take one, he begins to chew his 
fingernails and wish he were back in the office. Or the minister 
who longs for a vacation, but as soon as he gets away, he goes 
to work preparing a lot of sermons, accepting a lot of speaking 
engagements, and spending his entire time as actively as he did 
in his pastorate. Or the teacher who makes excessive assign- 
ments upon his students because he makes excessive assignments 
upon himself. We understand this as the super-ego making 
demands upon us. Therefore, we make demands of the same 
order upon other people. 

This also serves a self-protective function. If I condemn 
myself before you can condemn me, then I have saved myself 
from your condemnation. If I can punish myself before you 
punish me, then I have saved myself from your punishment 
and satisfied the demands of conscience. 

Children react not so much to the parent's ego as they do 
to the parent's super-ego. Imagine a young child just tucked 
in for the night. The first time he calls is because he forgot 
to go to the bathroom before going to bed. The next time he 
calls he wants a drink of water. When he gets the drink, he 
fusses because it happens to be bathroom water instead of 
kitchen water. After the parents, who have been trying to carry 
on a serious conversation in the front room of the home, have 
met the child's demands for so long, a reaction is certain. 

The child is severely threatened, "You lie down and keep 
quiet and go to sleep or we'll turn out the light." When the 


child hears this, he suddenly jumps out of bed, crying, slams 
the door, turns out the light and jumps back in bed. He cries 
himself to sleep. How are we to understand this reaction? This 
is not an instinctive kind of choice. There are different kinds 
of reactions and there is a possibility of a choice between them. 
If the child has lived under authoritarianism, the child will 
accept life as a conformist and will take life as it is laid down 
for him. This does not mean that he will not resist, for often 
he will, but even in his resisting, he will realize that eventually 
he will have to give in. He will get out to the ragged edge of 
destruction, trying to assert himself as a person, trying to be- 
come a person and there is always something positive in acts 
of rebellion. His resistance then is a simple form of self asser- 
tion in order to preserve whatever individuality he has left 
rather than becoming a complete conformist. The problem is 
how to prevent the process of socialization from being com- 
pletely dominant to the point of snuffing out individuality. 
His hostility toward his environment is demonstrated by pun- 
ishing himself, he carried out and went beyond the punish- 
ment threatened by the parents. Since by force he is taking 
his action more seriously than his parents do, he will make his 
standards higher than his parents' standards, and will actually 
punish himself more severely than parents would punish him. 
The same thing would be true in reaction to his teachers, etc. 
He will find eventually that he can protect himself from criti- 
cism by self-punishment and needs that protection for the sake 
of preserving his own individuality. Self -punishment therefore 
is a normal reaction, and in such circumstances as these, it is 
a healthy reaction; but at the same time there is always the 
danger of extremes, i.e., the child may give in to complete au- 
thoritarian control and become a complete conformist, an 
absolutely dependent person unable to sever the symbolic um- 
bilical cord ; or else the self-punishment process will lead in the 
path of masochism. 

Now, according to Freud, this original or legalistic con- 
science or super-ego, will continue through the life of the adult, 
normally unchanged. This is a law, or legal conscience because 
it snaps at certain kinds of things that it has been taught to 
snap at in the original development. This is not bad because 
the conscience snaps, but it is bad because the person cannot 
consciously determine whether the conscience is snapping at 


the right or wrong thing, hence an ethic is involved. For ex- 
ample, Leslie D. Weatherhead 9 tells of Bishop Selwyn, who as a 
missionary among the cannibal Maoris of New Zealand wrote : 
"If I speak to a native on murder, infanticide, cannibalism, and 
adultery, they laugh in my face, and tell me I may think these 
acts are bad, but they are very good for a native, and they 
cannot conceive any harm in them." Such a missionary has to 
work with a legalistic conscience in a culture alien to our own. 
Freud would say that the super-ego is dominating the picture. 
This is what concerned Paul when he spoke of the "weak" 
conscience in writing to the Corinthians. 10 Some of the Corin- 
thians could not eat the meat that had been offered to idols 
because of the way their conscience would react within them- 
selves in regard to the meat. 

If the "law" conscience develops, what is the meaning of 
this in theology and ethics? 

Obviously we have to make a different approach. This 
raises a number of questions in our minds. In philosophy, there 
is not much to say in our limited time, but you will observe that 
philosophy generally starts at what may be called "that which 
somehow calls away from something and directs toward a 
value." Common to both philosophy and theology is some kind 
of a sense of obligation to the good, philosophy operating ob- 
jectively as a criticism or judgment upon the individual. The 
mere operation, however, is no indication that the conscience 
is operating correctly. The humanistic conscience is seen only 
by results and not by a feeling of oughtness. In this, humanism 
differs from the large body of philosophical thought. 

As to theology, we would say that feelings of oughtness 
should exist in the mature Christian because of a responsibility 
to freedom, the glorious liberty of the children of God, and 
not to obligation. The "sense of oughtness" is a responsibility 
to freedom and not a responsibility to law, or to obligation. 
This incorporates the fundamental aspects of a covenant of 
grace as over against a covenant of law. Usually the motiva- 
tion involved is expressed in the word agape, i.e., there are 

6 A Plain Man Looks at the Cross. (N.Y. : Abingdon-Gokesbury Press, 1945), p. 
172. This kind of phenomenon is well documented by the works of Nameions 
cultural anthropologists, e.g., Margaret Mead. 

10 I Cor. 8:7 ff., 10:25 ff. To get the total Pauline treatment of the conscience read 
this entire section of the Corinthian letter. 


certain laws on the statute books requiring you who are parents 
to care for the children born in your home. There is such a 
law in the state of Georgia. If you should go on a wild week- 
end, drunk, leaving a couple of children locked in your home, 
unfed, untended and a neighbor discovers it, the state reserves 
the right to step in your home and deny your parentage. 

Do we who are parents provide the needs of life for our 
own children because the law says we must, and we may be 
caught if we do not, or do we provide for our children because 
we love them? If our motivation is the latter then by so much 
we have moved from law to grace. The law, as Paul pointed 
out, is necessary because of the fact that not all have the love 
of God in their hearts, therefore the need for restraint. To the 
extent that we are motivated by the love of God, to that extent 
have we transcended the law. 

The Greek word syne de sis, has the same root meaning as 
our word conscience; it means "knowledge with" and the idea 
of the Greek use is the deepest possible knowledge of one's 
internal motivation. All we have said in regard to the psy- 
chological and ethical treatments of conscience is most sig- 
nificantly dealt with by Paul in I Corinthians, note especially 
chapter 8, vss. 7 following, chapter 10, vss. 25 following. To 
get the total picture you need to read the whole section. 

When the original or the legalistic conscience, also termed 
super-ego or what Paul refers to by the adjective "weak", is 
brought into awareness and is worked through constructively, 
the person discovers in the maturity that follows a responsibility 
to freedom rather than a responsibility to internalized law. This 
responsibility to freedom may correctly be termed a grown-up, 
a mature, or an ethical conscience. However, it would be our 
position that such a development remains inadequate until the 
person is able to symbolize in consciousness the truth that it is 
the work of God that delivers us from the law and actualizes 
the sense of responsibility to freedom. 

This understanding of the conscience now forms a base 
for comprehending ways and complications of dealing with the 
ethical fiber of our culture. It is here that Allport 11 contends 
we need research that is not forth coming at the present. 

11 Personality and Social Encounter. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1960), Ch. 21, "Guide- 
lines for Research in International Cooperation", pp. 347-362. 


Gordon W. Allport asks the question, "Can social science 
help us reduce bias to a more effective use of law, the class- 
room, of mass media, of individual therapy?" He notes prop- 
erly the absence of sufficient research of an adequate nature 
to answer this question. He has then noted the manner in 
which society attempts to deal with attitudes. The common 
methods are by legislation, formal educational programs, con- 
tact and acquaintance programs, group re-training, mass media, 
exhortation, individual therapy, and catharsis. That attitude 
changes might take place by the employment of one or more 
of these procedures is evidenced in the enormous amount of 
money being extended constantly for advertising. According 
to the best available research, the most adequate of all methods 
for changing attitudes and consequently ethical behavior is 
through individual psychotherapy, but the utilization of therapy 
on a wide scale is, of course, impossible. At the same time 
what has been learned about the conscience and the manner 
in which it functions plus the appropriate social behavior of 
the mature, humanistic conscience as over against the legal- 
istic conscience, can assist us in all of the methods surveyed 
in strengthening the moral fiber of a society. 

Airport's conclusion seems to me to be an appropriate 

"While I sincerely believe in the value of the work re- 
viewed, I have no desire to oversimplify the problem of build- 
ing altruistic character. The issue is so complex, and the need 
so great, that every resource must be called upon. It would 
be a grave error to think that we have devised a bag of tricks, 
which, if adroitly manipulated, will conjure up a good neighbor. 
But it would be an equally grave error to assume that the plod- 
ding and serious investigations here reported have nothing to 
contribute to the improvement of human relationships. Edu- 
cation and religion, mass media and legislation, child training 
and psychotherapy — these and all other channels of human 
effort must be followed if we are to produce a race of men 
who will seek their individual salvation, not at the expense of 
their fellows, but in concert with them." 

12 Ibid. Ch. 15, "Techniques for Reducing Group Prejudice", pp. 237-255. 

13 Ibid. P. 255. 


Philosophical Elements In 
The Early Reformed Tradition 

Paul T. Fuhrmann 

Nowadays the road of an historian is beset by such ob- 
stacles that it is practically impossible to express anything 
about the Early Reformed Tradition without provoking protest. 
American historians 1 have demonstrated that people of Anglo- 
Saxon stock generally assume that the founders of the Re- 
formed Church on the continent shared our own local ideas 
and ways — an historical impossibility ! Our current religion 
in America bears little resemblance to the Reformed faith 
historically understood. The ideas and mores of our con- 
stituency derive in part from Anglo-Saxon dissenters who 
were anterior to the European Protestant Reformation. There 
was, in England, a tradition of native resistance dating back 
to the conquest. The founders of the Reformed Church, not 
being Englishmen, did not possess the dissenter mentality. The 
early Reformers may have been against the papacy but they 
were not against the Church. They loved the Church and 
wanted to form her anew (as the word 'reform' indicates) 
on the basis of the New Testament. 

Things are further complicated by the fact that we Amer- 
icans entertain pietistic habits and methodist ideas which our 
ancient Reformers did not possess. The Reformers lived over 
two hundred years before Pietism and Methodism came into 
existence. Our Reformed fathers were undoubtedly pious and 
methodic in their way of life but they were neither Pietists 
nor Methodists. Again, many of our people are fond of revival- 
ism, but revivalism was utterly unknown in Reformation times. 

The last but not least obstacle to a knowledge and under- 
standing of the early Reformed tradition is the English Bible 
itself. The English Bible carries an infinity of ideas which 
belong to the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons which our Re- 
formed forefathers did not possess. The early Reformers did 

Paul T. Fuhrmann, who is Professor of Church History, is a noted interpreter of 

1 Thomas C. Hall, The Religious Background of American Culture, Boston, 1930, 
and Franklin H. Littell, From State Church to Pluralism, Garden City, N. Y., 1952. 


not use the English Bible for the simple reason that they did 
not have it. They studied the New Testament in Greek and 
the Old Testament in Hebrew. 

The chief founder of the Reformed tradition is Huldreich 
ZWINGLI, who was born in Switzerland in 1484 and died in 
battle in 1531. At the age of ten he began preparatory school 
at Basel and Bern under teachers who were no longer medieval 
but new men in sympathy with the Renaissance. The Renais- 
sance was a vast rediscovery and imitation of the treasures of 
antiquity, a re-birth of arts, sciences (especially in Italy) and 
literature (especially in Germany). This last activity (the 
study of letters) was more serious in Germany and it is often 
called 'Humanism 5 . This word, which today has a bad mean- 
ing, comes from the Latin word humanitas, properly meaning 
'education. 5 The humanists were well read in Greek and Latin. 
They were educated men, men of refined ideas and feelings and 
they wanted other men to be educated and 'humanized 5 . 

In 1500 Zwingli went for about three years to the Uni- 
versity of Vienna which Celtis and Vadian had recently made 
a centre of humanism. There Zwingli studied all that phil- 
osophy embraces. He then studied theology at the University 
of Basel under Wyttenbach, who had forsaken Occamist and 
Thomist teachings for the Scriptures and Church Fathers. 
Zwingli was awarded his master's degree in 1506. He be- 
came a parish priest. He greatly admired Erasmus, the 
scholar and satirist, who thought that the world was overloaded 
with obscure dogmas invented by professional theologians. He 
urged men to go back to the source of Christianity, that is, 
the New Testament. Erasmus thought that Christianity was 
submerged under a morass of vain ceremonies and dogmas. 
It is not by going to church, he said, that we can learn what 
Christianity is, but by reading the New Testament. Erasmus 
was convinced that a knowledge of the earliest Christian 
writers would renew the Church and better the world of men. 
Truth must be simple, and charity was more important than 
theology. Zwingli was attracted to the program of Erasmus 
and even went to see him in Basel. Zwingli was an enlightened 
parish priest and was interested in the general welfare of the 
community. Having twice gone to Italy as a chaplain of 
Swiss mercenary troops, Zwingli came to dislike foreign wars 


and to oppose Swiss mercenary service. Zwingli moved to 
Zurich and on January 1, 1519, began to expound the Gospel 
with Erasmian faithfulness with a view to the renewal of 
Christian life. For years Zwingli was a disciple of Erasmus 
and knew nothing about Luther. 

We like to imagine that Zwingli believed what we currently 
believe and hold dear, but what Zwingli actually believed can 
easily be known because Zwingli put all his main ideas into a 
work entitled, Exposition of True and False Religion (1525) . 2 
It is a manifesto of reformed Christianity as understood by 
Zwingli. All of Zwingli's doctrines are strongly influenced by 
Erasmus, by the ancient philosophers who lived before Jesus, 
and by the Stoics especially, whom Zwingli constantly quotes. 

The founder of ancient (older) Stoicism lived three hun- 
dred years before Jesus. He was not a Greek but a Semite, 
that is, a kind of Jew. His name was Zeno (334-262 B. C.) 
and he was a Phenician. Zeno brought a new religious and 
theistic tone to Greek philosophy. Rather than a homogenous 
system of doctrines, Stoicism was a religious orientation of 
thought and life. God, according to Zeno, is neither Olympian 
nor Dionysian, but a great Governor who runs all things in the 
universe and yet lives in society with men and reasonable beings. 
He disposes of all things in their favor. Virtue, for the Stoic, 
consists in accepting and cooperating with God's work accord- 
ing to a man's particular nature and ability. 3 Cooperation 
with God is possible thanks to the understanding (reason) 
which wise men receive from God. Zeno therefore is the 
prophet of Reason (Logos); and for him philosophy is the 
exact knowledge (science) of things divine and human. 4 

According to Zeno the universe is the effect of a cause 
which acts according to a necessary law. Nothing can happen 
otherwise than it happens. God, the Soul of Zeus, Reason, 
necessity, destiny (eimarmene) are all one and the same thing 
for Zeno. Hence, to follow nature, to follow reason, to follow 

2 The Works of H. Zwingli translated by various scholars and edited by Samuel M. 
Jackson, 3 vols., New York and Philadelphia, 1912-1929. Vol. Ill contains Zwingli's 
Commentary on True and False Religion, pp. 45-343. 

3 Diogene Laerce, Vie, Doctrines et sentences des philosophes illustres, traduction 
nouvelle de R. Genaille, Paris, n.d., Vol. I, p. 75. (DL) 

*Emile Brehier, Histoire de la philosophie, Paris, 1951, Vol. I, p. 297-298. 


God, this threefold ideal is one for the Stoics. 5 Error, evil, 
comes from the fact that passions (which are "irrational move- 
ments of the soul contrary to nature") 6 , human folly and 
fanaticism, perturb the higher and directing power of the soul 
which the Stoics called the egemonikon and placed in the 
heart. 7 To destroy and suppress passions is a vain dream, 
Man is not a statue made of stone. The wise man, however, 
must rise above passion and reach a serene state of mind called 
apatheia. 8 For the Stoics the world is such a mess that it can- 
not be changed. But men can; and the Stoics aimed at being 
a school of spirituality which changes men. Men ought not to 
live in isolation and be separated but follow, according to their 
individuality, one same rational order of things; they ought 
to be brethren, cosmopolitans, internationalists, belonging to 
the City of Zeus. The Stoics thus gave a philosophical basis 
to the brotherhood of all men. This humanitarian spirit cared 
for the poor, the unprivileged and the oppressed. 9 

Zwingli's idea of God is in many respects Stoic. The 
founder of the Reformed Church calls God "the entelechy 
and energy of the universe." God is the being, preservation, 
life and movement of all things which live and move. 10 "He 
is the foundation of all things. God is good. He is perenially 
bountiful. He spends himself gratuitously (amisthoti)" Zwin- 
gli explains the Greek noun theos (God) from the verb theein 
(to run) . "God runs to us everywhere and is everywhere pres- 
ent to help." "God is to the universe what reason is to man." 
Zwingli does not separate his faith from his general theory of 
things, that is to say, from his philosophy. He conceives the 
universe like the Stoics: an inert mass moved by the Spirit. 11 

5 E. Brehier, op. cit., pp. 313-314, 320. 

6 DL, Vol. II, p. 99. 

7 Calvin follows the Stoics in this and speaks of the egeminokon, Institutes, 

8 Seneca, Opera quae supersunt, ed. by F. Haase, 3 vols. Leipzig 1852-1853. Ep. 

9 Brehier, op. cit., p. 330 

10 According to the Stoics, "God is a living, immortal, reasonable, perfect, intelli- 
gent, happy being foreign to evil, extending his providence on the world and its 
content. He has no human form." DL, Vol. II, p. 94. 

11 De vera rel., ch. 3. According to the Stoics, "the entire universe comes from two 
principles: one active and the other passive. The passive principle is inert matter 
without qualities; the active principle is reason, the divinity which acts upon the 
matter." DL, Vol. II, p. 90. 


As for salvation, Zwingli says it comes neither from bap- 
tism nor from faith but from Divine Providence which works 
all and everything. Zwingli published a Treatise on Providence 
( 1530) in which he defines Providence as "God's constant and 
unchangeable government and administration of all things." 
He clearly teaches that the nature of God is love and all God 
does is according to his nature. Our election or predestination 
to salvation is simply an aspect or consequence of Providence. 
Faith is a gift of God and follows upon election, so that not 
our faith but election is the principle of justification. Our 
salvation is the daughter of predestination and predestination 
is the daughter of Providence. 12 

In his book on True and False Religion, faith consists not 
in trust in the promises of God but simply in religion. Zwingli 
defines religio, as Cicero defined it, from relegere, carefully 
considering and taking care of everything pertaining to the 
worship of God. 13 Zwingli further identifies religio with pietas. 
And for Zwingli pietas is neither piosity nor sanctimoniousness 
but concern for innocence and justice. 14 Zwingli concludes his 
book by affirming that all God expects from us is innocence 
(i.e., blamelessness) and integrity of character. 

Zwingli had a strongly philosophical sense of God. But 
the person of Jesus naturally imposed itself upon him. As time 
went on, his preaching became more and more Christological. 
Jesus creates new life in man. Conversion is a turning to Christ ; 
and Christ creates in man the determination to obey the law 
(which expresses the eternal will of God) and gives man the 
strength to do it. Political authority must execute the will of 
God expressed in Scripture. In Zurich the cooperation between 
Church and State was so close that the City could be called 
a theocratic State. The Swiss reformation of the Christian 
Church thus began in Zurich and from there spread to Grau- 
bunden (1526), St. Gall (1527), Bern (1528), Basel (1529), 
and later on to Geneva (1535). 

Zwingli was no ignorant preacher or an obscurantist. 
Zwingli admired "the richness and splendor of Plato", "the 
finesse and erudition of Aristotle", "the incorruptible heart of 

13 De Providentia, summarized. 

13 De vera rel., ch. 1. 

14 De vera rel., Epilogue. 


the Greek poet Pindar", "the laboring soul of Seneca." Zwingli 
professed to be "a disciple of Christ as well as a disciple of 
Plato and Seneca". 15 

Another founder of the Reformed Church is Martin 
BUCER. He was born in 1491 in an Alsatian town which was 
the seat of a famous school of humanists. Bucer became a 
Dominican monk but continued to study the ancient classics 
at Heidelberg. Bucer admired Erasmus and remained a Chris- 
tian humanist throughout life. In 1523 Bucer joined some Re- 
formers in Strasbourg and published there the manifesto of his 
faith, Instruction in Christian Love (1523). 16 

Long before Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva were 
known to exist, Strasbourg was the center of French Protes- 
tantism. That is to say, persecuted French Protestants went 
to Strasbourg. Bucer gave great attention to learning and to 
the establishment of schools. The thought of Zwingli was influ- 
ential in Strasbourg. Bucer remained a humanist and an edu- 
cator, both in Strasbourg and in England, where he died in 
1551. In his Kingdom of Christ Bucer presented the ideal of 
a nation informed by the spirit of Christ, in which all the 
various aspects of society and human nature, including the 
intellect, are developed. The thought of Bucer was vast and 

It is time now to come to John CALVIN who organized 
and gave a classical form to the Reformed tradition. He was 
born in France in 1509 and died in Geneva in 1564. His father 
placed the young John under the care of the noble Montmor 
family. From these patrons Calvin learned aristocratic man- 
ners and a certain finesse of taste which he kept throughout life. 
In 1523 Calvin entered a college in Paris where he had an 
incomparable teacher of Latin — Mathurin Cordier who was 
a humanist and a passionate educator. After one year Calvin 
changed his college, studying philosophy under a Spaniard, 
Antonio Coronel. From Coronel Calvin learned the principal 
philosophical systems of antiquity and the art of analysis, 
definition, dialectics and debate, which enabled him to become 
the greatest controversialist of his time. While in school, 

^Quoted, Emile G. Leonard, Histoire generate du Protestantisme, (3 vols., Paris, 

1961-1964), Vol. I, p. 124. 

16 John Knox Press, Richmond, Va., 1952. 


Calvin was naturally Aristotelian in logic and rhetoric, but 
he must have read the works of Plato available in a Latin 
translation. He continued to quote Plato throughout his life. 
About 1528 Calvin received the Master of Arts degree. He 
then studied law at Orleans and then at Bourges where an 
Italian, Alciati, explained law in the light of history and social 
life. Though studying law, Calvin was soon carried away by 
his love for ancient literature. The death of his father in 1531 
gave him freedom to follow his humanist inclinations. After 
receiving the degree of Licentiate in Law, Calvin returned to 
Paris to listen to layminded royal lecturers who aimed at inde- 
pendence of thought. Under the influence of this new learning 
of humanism Calvin published his first book, an exposition 
of Seneca's Treatise on Compassion of Superiors for Inferiors 
(1532). It shows that Calvin had read Homer, Virgil, Plato, 
Aristotle, Epictetus, Cicero. In other words, Calvin had ab- 
sorbed the ancient wisdom which the Renaissance had brought 
to light and greeted as the rational ideal of life. But for Calvin 
one voice in antiquity was supreme — that of Seneca the Stoic. 

Seneca (4 A. D. - 65 A. D.) was first the educator and 
then the manager of Nero. Seneca believed in God. Seneca's 
God is the mind of the universe. He is pure Reason. 17 God is 
the rector and custodian of the world, the soul and spirit of the 
universe. He provides for all things. 18 A holy spirit resides in 
us and observes our deeds good and bad. Hence no man is 
without God 19 and no mind is good without God. 20 Seneca 
believed in the possibility of freedom in this world: the wise 
man can put his soul above injuries and draw joy and satisfac- 
tion from his own thoughts. 21 A slave can be inwardly a free 
man because only the body is subject to a master; the soul can 
be free and place itself above all things. 22 A slave can be in- 
wardly free while other men, his masters and the rest of the 
world, are slaves of conformity, social ambition and greed for 
money. 23 Seneca's ethics is a continuous vindication of a re- 

17 Seneca, Nat. quaest., I, Prologue, 11-14. 

18 nulla sine deo mens bona est. Seneca, Nat. quaest., II, 45. 

19 Seneca, Ep., 41, 1-2. 

20 Seneca, Ep., 73, 16. 

21 Seneca, De const, sap., XIX, 2. 
23 Seneca, De ben., 3, 20. 

23 Seneca, Ep., 47, 17. 


ligious will against anything that tends to limit it. "God is 
near thee, God is with thee, God is in thee. The divine spirit 
resides within us, observer and custodian of our actions good 
and evil. There, in us, as we treat him, he treats us. No man 
can be good without God. 5524 

Seneca was strongly humanitarian. He thought that man 
is sacred. 25 Man ought not to kill man but extend his hand 
to the lost, to the desperate, and share his bread with the 
hungry. 26 There is nothing weak and fanciful in Seneca. He 
conceives man's inner life as a struggle between two principles — 
the godlike and the godless. To him, life is an armed camp, a 
military service which calls for endurance. Seneca recognized 
the tie of fellowship in all possible relationships. Men must 
live for others. Masters should treat their slaves as fellow- 
servants and fellow-soldiers. Individual happiness is bound up 
with the happiness of others. 27 

It was the Stoics who gave birth to the idea of equality. 
Yet intellectually Seneca is an aristocrat. To his friend, Lu- 
cilius, who asked him what he ought principally to avoid, 
Seneca answered "The crowd." 28 The wise man is self-suf- 
ficient. We must not be the slaves of any event, thing or per- 
son. This is freedom. 29 We must continually struggle against 
evil. The beginning of salvation is an awareness of sin: an 
acknowledgement of one's faults and a will to amend. 30 "The 
day of death will divide this compound of divine and human 
which is man. . . . Darkness will be dissipated and total light 
will come." 31 But Seneca believed in the possibility of progress 
in this world also. "If many people today do not know the 
cause of eclipses of the moon, time will come when men will 
come to know much that is unknown to us. Many discoveries 
are reserved for future ages." 32 

24 bonus vero vir sine deo nemo est, Seneca, Ep., 41, 1-2. 

25 homo, sacra res homini. Seneca, Ep., 95, 33, cf. Calvin on Luke 10:30 and 
Institutes, III, 7, 6. 

^Seneca, Ep., 95, 51-53. 
"Seneca, Ep., 51-5-6. 

28 Seneca, Ep., 7, 1-2. 

29 Seneca, £/>., 51,4-9. 

30 "The beginning of salvation is an awareness of sin — acknowledgement of one's 
faults and will to amend." Epicurus in Seneca, Ep., 28, 9. 

81 Seneca, Ep., 102, 22-30. 

83 Seneca, Nat. quaest., VII, 25. 


For the later Stoic Epictetus (50 A. D. - c. 140) ethics 
is founded upon a knowledge of God (prolepsis theou) inserted 
in the nature of man who, as a rational being, participates in 
the divine nature. The present life is a battlefield; the phil- 
osopher's life ought to be a service of God (diaconia tou 
theou) ; 33 the wise man ought to be a minister of religion, a 
witness for God, a brave soldier of God and a good citizen of 
the City of God. 34 

In 1532, Calvin was full of admiration for Stoicism and 
Seneca. He was addicted to philosophy when, behold ! he had 
a conversion. His conversion is not to be understood in pie- 
tistic or methodist terms. Nor did his conversion happen at a 
revival meeting. In all probability Calvin was converted by 
himself. He gives us a good description of what conversion 
means, when (speaking either for himself or for the typical 
Reformed men of his day) in a book addressed to Cardinal 
Sadoletus, Calvin says: 

O Lord, thou hast enlightened me by the clarity of thy 
Spirit in order that I may think . . . 

Thou hast put before me thy Word as a torch 
in order that I may know . . . 

Finally thou hast touched my heart. . . , 35 

This enables us to understand the nature of Calvin's conver- 
sion. Calvin says: "This is the principle which distinguishes 
our Religion from all others: we know that God has spoken 
to us, and are certainly convinced that the prophets did not 
speak their own minds, but, being organs and instruments of the 
Holy Spirit, they proclaimed only what they had received from 
above. . . . That same Spirit who made Moses and the prophets 
certain of their calling now also witnesses to our hearts that 
God has used their ministry to instruct us." 36 

If such was the conversion of Calvin, when did it happen? 
We have a score of early letters of Calvin. These early letters 

33 Epictetus, Disc, III, 22, 69. On Rom. 2:24 Calvin speaks of prolepsis. 

81 Epictetus, Dies., Ill, 24, 112. 

85 Calvin, Oeuvres, II, (Trois Traites), Paris, 1934, p. 82. 

30 Comment aires de J. Calvin sur le Nouveau Testament, Paris, 1855, Vol. IV, pp. 



show no religious concern, no elan of charity, when suddenly 
a letter written from Angouleme (ex Agropoli) at the end of 
March 1534 shows a religious fervor. Calvin declares that the 
peace of mind (tranquility) which he enjoys has been given 
to him "by the hand of God". "Let us rest on him," he adds, 
"he will take care of us." 37 The Stoic ideas which Calvin had 
assimilated in early manhood were not entirely abandoned. 
They remained in his mind to reappear in his Institutes, as 
well as in his Expositions of books of the Bible. Calvin re- 
mained a Stoic in his personal habits. Abhorring the crowds, 
he stayed at home among his books. He only went out when 
he had to preach, to teach, or to attend an important meeting. 
In youth he had absorbed the culture of his day — and what 
a culture ! — that of the Renaissance ! Yet he was not satisfied. 
He continued to read and to study. He was truly an intel- 
lectual. He perpetually used all possible tools of knowledge 
in preparing his Biblical expositions. Throughout them he 
refers to most ancient authors. 38 In preparing his exposition 
of John's gospel he kept before his eyes even the ancient Nonnos' 
versification of the Fourth Gospel. 39 Calvin believed that "the 
first duty of an expositor is to discover the intention and clearly 
and concisely to expound the thought (mentem) of a Biblical 
writer." 40 In his ministry, which he conceived as a strenuous 
military service, 41 Calvin was unconsciously reflecting Stoic 

Let us consider Seneca's attitude toward God and life 
as a whole and then compare it with the 'Calvinism' of Calvin. 
Seneca repeated with a new emphasis Plato's definition of 
man's duty: "The first point in the worship of the gods is to 
believe that the gods exist; second to render unto them their 
majesty; to render likewise their goodness without which there 

87 In Lichtenberger, ESR, Vol. II, p. 531. 

88 Calvin knows the older Greeks as well as those who lived nearer to the time of the 
New Testament: Polybius, Josephus, Plutarch. It is the same with Roman writers: 
Calvin quotes Pliny as well as Macrobius, cf. e.g. on Phil. 3:5, Rom. 3:15, Matt. 
2:16. Calvin quotes Plato (on Luke 1:75, Matt. 5:42, 19:5, Rom. 1:13, I Cor. 
10:20, 14:7, Eph. 4:17, I Tim. 2:1, Tit. 1:7, 12, 26) and the Theurgians who fol- 
lowed Ammonius Saccas the founder of Neoplatonism (on Col. 2:18). In his In- 
stitutes, see the authors listed in the Index. 

39 Printed at Venice, 1501, and Hagenau, 1527. 

40 Latin and French Dedication of Commentary on Romans by Calvin. 

"Calvin's 27th Sermon on Job 7:1 Opera XXXIII, col. 334-340 and Institutes, 
III, 25, 1, Cf. non est delicata res viveie, (Seneca Ep., 107, 2) vivere militare est, 
Seneca Ep., 96, 5. 


is no majesty; to know that the gods preside over the world, 
that they direct the universe by their power, protect mankind, 
and sometimes have regards for individuals. The gods neither 
bring evil nor have it in themselves; but they correct and check 
some men, they inflict penalties, sometimes they punish under 
apparent blessings. Wouldst thou propitiate the gods? Be thou 
good thyself. He has worshipped them aright who has imitated 
them." 42 And again: "The divine nature is not worshipped 
with the fat bodies of slain bulls, or with gold or silver votive 
offerings, or with money collected for the sacred treasury, but 
with a pious and upright will." 43 If we care to substitute in 
these passages of Seneca "God" for "gods" we have the follow- 
ing fundamental ideas : "The first point in religion is to believe 
that God exists; second to render unto him his majesty; to 
render likewise his goodness without which there is no majesty; 
to know that God presides over the world, that he directs the 
universe by his power, protects mankind, and has regard for 
individuals. God neither brings evil nor has it in himself; but 
he corrects and checks men, he inflicts penalties, sometimes 
he punishes under the appearance of prosperity. Wouldst thou 
propitiate God? Be thou good thyself. He has worshipped 
him aright who has imitated him. The divine nature is not 
worshipped by the splendor of large buildings, or with dollar 
offerings, or with money collected for the church, but with a 
devout and upright will." If this is not authentic Calvinism, 
then I do not know what Calvinism is! 

Let us consider another passage of Seneca: "We shall 
never find anything satisfactory. He who follows another man 
finds nothing, rather he seeks nothing. Our predecessors are 
our guides not our masters (i.e. owners). All and each of us 
can seek truth. No one so far has taken (full) possession of 
it." 44A Seneca does not say that we are altogether to reject 
our teachers but to improve upon them ; he believed in stability 
yet in liberty of thought and progress. Calvin, in like manner, 
took ideas from Luther but he improved upon them. If we 
compare Luther's Large Catechism (1529) , 44B which was writ- 

43 Seneca, Ep., 95, 50. 

^Seneca, Ep., 115, 5. 

44a Seneca, Ep. } 33, 10-11. 

44b Published by the Augsburg Press in St. Paul, Minnesota. 


ten for ministers, with Calvin's Instruction in Faith (1537), 45 
which is simply the first edition of the French edition of the 
Institutes, we can see that Calvin follows Luther's pattern but 
improves upon it. Calvin does the same thing in his Exposi- 
tions of different books of the Bible. He improves upon, yet 
purposely does not greatly depart from, the Commentaries 
of Melanchthon, Bullinger and Bucer, because varying ex- 
positions diminish the majesty of the Word of God. 46 

Calvin not only preserved Stoic theism but, from one point 
of view, was one of the fathers of the later French rationalism 
of the Enlightenment. Many people are emotionally condi- 
tioned against the word 'rationalism'. Rationalism, in itself, 
is neither good nor bad. Everything depends upon the use 
which we make of rationalism. Orthodoxy has always used 
reason and philosophy to prove its dogmas. Classical Rational- 
ism is that philosophical method which, in contrast to sensisme 
which believes that all knowledge comes from the five senses 
(sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch), believes that real and 
sure knowledge derives from certain inborn ideas. To reach 
the truth, a man does not need to experience the outer world; 
all he needs to do is to meditate, to think, to put his mind in 
operation and then he will reach the truth. The watchword 
of the Enlightenment was simply: "Dare to use your mind!" 
(Sap ere audel Kant). Reason is one and whole in all men, 
at all times, and in all nations. This was the 'rationalism' of 
Anselm, Calvin, Descartes and Leibnitz who were far from 
being unbelievers. 

Today, in order to understand the behavior of man, we 
study rats and monkeys. Calvin never did that. He knew 
that the literature of the Greeks and Romans has a wealth 
of teaching about the nature of man and of wisdom. Calvin 
derives many of his concepts of the working of the human 
mind from Neoplatonism and Stoicism. Calvin, like the Stoics, 
calls the directing part or intellect 'the governor' (to egemoni- 
kon).* 7 It discerns and judges things proposed to us. The 

45 Published by the Westminster Press, Philadelphia. Still the best introduction to 
Calvin's thought. See J. Cadier, The Man God Mastered, p. 184. 

40 Preface to Romans where Calvin gives his estimate of the Expositions of Me- 
lanchthon, Bullinger, and Bucer. At the end of his Argument of the Synoptics, 
Calvin acknowledges his indebtedness to Bucer's Gospel Expositions. 

"Institutes, I, 15, 8. 


will elects and follows what the intellect thinks good. 48 Like 
the Stoics, Calvin says that every man in every land from the 
womb of his mother is born with rational principles, with 
what the ancients called koinai ennoiai — notions common to 
all men. 49 Such inborn ideas, Calvin says, are not the product 
of chance or art but are placed in man ex utero as part of the 
wisdom of God. 50 In explaining what Jesus means by "the 
light which is in thee" (Matthew 6:22-23) Calvin says 
that light is "the light of reason" "which ought to regulate 
our life," while darkness signifies gross and brutal affections 
which, according to the Stoics, obscure reason. 

As to the principle of theology proper Calvin, in his 
Instruction in Faith, says that no man is found who is not 
affected by some idea of religion. We are all created to 
know the majesty of God. That idea is planted in our hearts. 51 

Calvin says the same thing in relation to the principles 
of morality: the seeds of law are implanted (insita) in all 
men, without teachers or legislators. Our passion or cupidity, 
however, makes us violate the law. But just as no man is 
devoid of the light of reason 52 , love of justice (aequitas) is 
born in each of us. This love of justice is natural and is 
inborn in every man; hence it is the same for all mankind. 
This principle (ratio) of equity (concern for justice) has been 
engraved by God (a Deo insculpta) in the mind of every 
man. 53 The Decalogue or Law of God is simply an authori- 
tative witness to this moral law naturally born in us. Our 
conscience shows us the difference between good and evil. 
The Lord offers us his written law to clarify natural law and 

^Institutes, I, 15, 7. 

49 Herbert of Cherbury (1581-1648) and Voltaire (1694-1778) say that these 
koinai ennoniai of Calvin constitute the true religion. Constantine Volney (1757- 
1820) seeks the union of all religions by the recognition of the common truth 
underlying them all. He came to the U. S. A. in 1795 but being violently opposed 
by Dr. Priestley and charged with being a French spy, Volney had to return to 
France in 1797. 

80 "Ces notions communes . . . (koinai ennoiai) n'etaient, d'apres Herbert de 
Cherbury, le produit ni du hasard ni de I'art, mais des portions de la sagesse divine, 
que nous tenons du Createur. De la le nom de religion naturelle qu'il donnait a 
leur ensemble." E. Chastel, Histoire du Christianisme, Paris, 1883, Vol. V, p. 118- 
119. "Hors de Ueglise des 'notions communes' point de salut." ibid., p. 118. 

51 Ch. 1, p. 17. See note 47 above. 

"Institutes, II, 2, 12-13. 

"Institutes, IV, 20, 14-16. 


to impress it upon our understanding and memory. 54 In ex- 
pounding Paul's Letter to the Romans Calvin again tells us 
that each man has some manifestation of God engraved on 
his heart, and this is not learned in schools but is inborn and 
common to all classes of men and all races of men. All this 
is written in our hearts. But for Calvin, the heart is the seat 
not only of feelings but of ideas as well (as in Deut. 29:4). 55 

The Stoics were moved by a genuine love for humanity. 
Calvin was also a humanitarian. In expounding the meaning 
of what we call today the Parable of the Good Samaritan, 
Calvin says that "the word neighbor extends without dis- 
tinction to every man because the whole human race is 
united by a sacred bond of fellowship. . . . The Lord purposely 
declares that all are neighbors, that every relationship may 
produce mutual love. To make any person our neighbor, 
therefore, it is enough that he be a man; for it is not in our 
power to blot out our common nature. . . . The general truth 
conveyed is, that the greatest stranger is our neighbor, because 
God had bound all men together, for the purpose of assisting 
each other. . . . Here, as I have said, the chief design is to 
show that the neighborhood, which lays us under obligation 
to mutual duties of kindness, is not confined to friends or rela- 
tives, but extends to the whole human race. . . . The compas- 
sion that a Samaritan enemy showed for a Jew demonstrates 
that the guidance and teaching of nature are sufficient to show 
that man was created for the sake of man." 56 

Calvin inculcated the virtue of tolerance. He taught 
that the obscure saying of Jesus 

No man puts a new cloth on an old garment 
For . . . a worse rent would occur (Matt. 9: 15 ) 57 

means that "all men must not be compelled indiscriminately 
to live in the same manner, because there is in men a di- 
versity of makeup (conditio) and complexes (French com- 
plexions) and all things are not suitable to all men." Hence 
Calvin advised ministers to offer a variety of instruction ac- 

64 Institutes, II, 8, 1. 

68 Calvin on Romans 1 : 19-22 ; 2 : 14. 

M Calvin on Luke 10:30. 

57 Calvin on Matt. 9:16. 


cording to case and capacity. 58 In his respect for persons and 
in his love of mankind, Calvin followed the Stoics. "The Lord 
commands us to do good to all men without exception. . . . We 
must not regard the intrinsic merits of men, but consider the 
Image of God in them. To that image we owe all possible 
honor and love (French dilection). . . This Divine Image by 
its beauty, dignity and glory, must eclipse the faults of men 
and move us to love them." 59 

That Calvin was not an obscurantist is shown by his 
saying that "no one will be a minister of the Word of God 
unless he first be a first rate scholar." 60 That he was an intel- 
lectual is indicated best of all by his daily prayer for students : 
Calvin tells us to pray "for 

1) enlightenment of the intellect to understand matters 

2) strengthening of memory to retain faithfully the 
things understood and learned, and finally 

3) disposition of heart to desire to make progress and 
lose no occasion to instruct oneself." 61 

For, "to charge man's power of understanding with perpetual 
blindness, so as to leave it no intelligence with regard to any- 
thing, is," Calvin said, "contrary not only to the Divine Word 
but also to the experience of common sense." 62 

In conclusion, it appears clear to me and other historians 
that Protestantism is entering a new dark age of intellectual 
regression and obscurantism. People are the prey of irra- 
tional fears. The founders of the Reformed Church were not 
afraid of philosophy. Zwingli studied especially the ancient 
Stoics; Calvin, the later Stoics. They used the contribution 
of ancient philosophy, especially Stoicism, in their study of the 
Biblical Revelation. They did not, however, make a synthesis 
of the two. They accepted and kept parallel two great syn- 
theses already made: the Writings of the Stoics and the Books 
of the Bible. This is most clear in Calvin. He uses both the 

58 Calvin on Matt. 13:52. 

m Institutes, 111,7,6. 

60 Calvin, Opera, Vol. XXVI, col. 406. 

01 Calvin, Oeuvres, Paris, 1934, Vol. I, p. 133. 

63 Institutes, II, 2, 12. 


philosophy of Stoicism and the Biblical revelation to illumine 
the situation. Zwingli and Calvin used Reason in the service 
of the Gospel. Calvinism has often been defined as Scripture 
understood by Reason. 

Emotion paralyzes and constricts while Reason considers 
and includes. Like St. Paul, 63 we ought to consider every 
thing, examine every thing, absorb and apply to our task what- 
ever Reason sees to be true, good, beautiful and useful in our 
work for the Lord. 

IThes. 5:21; Phil. 4:8. 


The Enigma of Death 

Stuart B. Babbage 

An observing modern writer has said: "The fact of death 
is the great human repression, the universal 'complex'. Dying 
is the reality that man dare not face, and to escape which he 
summons all his resources. . . . Death is muffled up in illu- 
sions." 1 We do not need to cite Jessica Mitford's entertain- 
ing documentary, The American Way of Death, 2 to substanti- 
ate the truth of this conclusion; the evidence is plain for all 
to see. It is reflected in the very language we use to describe 
the fact of death. This is illustrated by an amusing incident 
in Noel Coward's comedy, This Happy Breed. 

Frank and his sister Sylvia are sitting in the lounge room. 
Sylvia, who is a soured spinster, has become an ardent Chris- 
tian Scientist. Frank and Sylvia have finished supper and are 
listening to the wireless; Frank's wife Ethel is in the kitchen. 

Sylvia : There's not so much to do since Mrs. Flint 
passed on. 

Frank : I do wish you wouldn't talk like that, Sylvia, 
it sounds so soft. 

Sylvia: I don't know what you mean, I'm sure. 

Frank : (firmly) Mother died, see ! First of all she 
got 'flu and that turned to pneumonia and 
the strain of that affected her heart, which 
was none too strong at the best of times, 
and she died. Nothing to do with passing 
on at all. 

Sylvia: How do you know? 

Frank: I admit it's only your new way of talking, 
but it gets me down, see? 
(Ethel comes in) 

Ethel: What are you shouting about? 

Stuart Babbage is Visiting Professor of Practical Apologetics. This paper is a chapter 
from a forthcoming book, The Mark of Cain: Studies in Literature and Theology. 

*H. P. Lovell Cocks, By Faith Alone (James Clarke, London, 1943), p. 55. 
2 Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963. 


Frank: I'm not shouting about anything at all. I'm 
merely explaining to Sylvia that mother 
died. She didn't pass on or pass over or 
pass out — she died. 3 

This conversation has a distinctly modern flavour. It reflects 
our self-consciousness, our uneasy embarrassment, about the 
fact of death. Frank, by speaking bluntly of death, is guilty 
of a breach of manners if not of decency ; he should not, Sylvia 
insists, speak in that way; he should soften the painful reality 
by substituting an acceptable euphemism, a tacttful circumlo- 

There has been a strange reversal, this century, in rela- 
tion to what is now regarded as the forbidden subject. Goef- 
frey Gorer points out that in the nineteenth century the pro- 
cesses of birth and reproduction were never mentioned in 
polite society, whereas the processes of death were an accepted 
subject of ordinary conversation. Today, by contrast, the 
processes of death are never mentioned in polite society, 
whereas the processes of birth and reproduction are a matter 
of compulsive preoccupaion and anxious concern. In the prim 
and proper days of the nineteenth century, it was felt neces- 
sary, in the interests of morality and decency, modestly to 
drape the legs of tables and of chairs. Our grandparents, in 
their embarrassment and self-consciousness over the facts of 
birth, said that babies were found under gooseberry bushes; 
we, in our embarrassment and self-consciousness over the facts 
of death, speak of "passing on." 

This can be illustrated by reference to the field of litera- 
ture. It is difficult to recall a play or a novel written during 
the past twenty-five years which has a "death-bed scene" in it, 
describing in detail the death of a major character from 
natural causes. Yet this topic was a set piece for most eminent 
Victorian and Edwardian writers, and it evoked their finest 
prose. To create the maximum pathos or edification, they 
employed the most elaborate technical devices and supplied 
a wealth of imaginative detail. 4 

A single example will suffice. The climax to The Old 
Curiosity Shop is the death of little Nell. The book was pub- 

3 Act 3, Scene 1. 

4 Geoffrey Gorer, "The Pornography of Death," The Encounter (October, 1955). 


lished in serial form, and, when successive installments began 
to foreshadow the death of the child, Charles Dickens was 
"inundated with imploring letters recommending poor little 
Nell to mercy." Dickens was acutely aware of the artistic 
demands of the situation, and for days he was in a state of 
emotional tension. Dickens had to nerve himself to describe 
the death. He confided, "All night I have been pursued by 
the child, and this morning I am unrefreshed and miserable." 
He felt the suffering so intensely that he described it as "an- 
guish unspeakable." Writing to George Cattermole, he said, 
"I am breaking my heart over this story." 

When the final installment was published, with the litho- 
graph illustration showing the dead child lying on a bed, with 
pieces of holly on her breast, the resulting emotional excite- 
ment was almost unprecedented. Macready, the noted actor, 
returning from the theatre, saw the print, and a cold chill ran 
through his blood. "I have never read printed words which 
gave me so much pain," he noted in his diary. "I could not 
weep for some time. Sensations, sufferings, have returned to 
me, that are terrible to awaken." Daniel O'Connor, the Irish 
Member of Parliament, reading the book in a railway carriage, 
was convulsed with sobs and groaned, "He should not have 
killed her", and threw the book out the window. Thomas 
Carlyle was utterly overcome. Waiting crowds on the pier in 
New York harbor shouted to the passengers, "Is little Nell 
dead?" The news flashed across the United States and rough 
and hardy pioneers dissolved in tears. Lord Jeffrey, one of Her 
Majesty's Judges, was found by a friend in the library of his 
house, with his head bowed on the table. When his friend 
entered the room, she saw that his eyes were filled with tears. 
"I had no idea that you had bad news or cause of grief", she 
said, "or I would not have come. Is anyone dead?" "Yes, 
indeed," he replied, "I'm a great goose to give myself away, 
but I couldn't help it. You'll be sorry to hear that little Nelly, 
Boz's little Nell, is dead." 5 

Without any certainty in the life to come, modern man 
finds the facts of natural death and physical decomposition 
too horrible to contemplate, let alone to discuss or describe. 
It is symptomatic of our present condition that one of the 

5 Edgar Johnson, Charles Dickens, His Tragedy and Triumph (Victor Gollancz, Lon- 
don, 1953), Vol. l,p. 304. 


most flourishing sects in the world today is Christian Science, 
which denies the fact of physical death and which refuses to 
allow the word to be printed in the columns of the Christian 
Science Monitor. 

Evelyn Waugh's novel, The Loved One, is a brilliant 
satire on the grotesque extravagances which accompany burial 
in southern California. Ruth Mulvey Harmer, in The High 
Cost of Dying, in a chapter in which she describes funeral 
parlors picturesquely as "turnstiles to eternity," writes: 

The body is no longer a corpse! it is the "de-" 
parted", the "loved one", or even — with greater 

liveliness — "Mr. ". And "Mr. " 

is no longer "laid out" for viewing; if he is not 
actually stretched out on a bed in a "reposing 
room", he is in the "slumber room" waiting to 
greet visitors, with his nails carefully manicured, 
the proper makeup applied, and perhaps holding 
a pipe or a book in a remarkably "natural" way 
. . . Coffins have become caskets to hold a preci- 
ous treasure. . . . More recently, they have be- 
come "couches" to banish further all thoughts of 
death. 6 

Sir Francis Hinsley, in Evelyn Waugh's satire, has com- 
mitted suicide by hanging. In the embalming rooms of the 
Whispering Glades the touching up process is completed. His 
friend muses on the nature of the transformation: 

They told me, Francis Hinsley, they told me you 
were hung 

With red protruding eye-balls and black pro- 
truding tongue; 

I wept as I remembered how often you and I 
had laughed about Los Angeles and now 'tis here 
you'll lie ; 

Here pickled in formaldehyde and painted like 

a whore, 

Shrimp-pink incorruptible, not lost nor gone 

before. 7 

6 (Collier Books, New York, 1963) , p. 19. 

7 (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1951), p. 69. 


These are the lengths to which they go in the Whispering 
Glades of California to obliterate the evidences of self-inflicted 
death and to arrest the processes of physical decay : they pre- 
serve the body in formaldehyde. Arthur Koestler observes that 
"morticians endeavour to transform the dead, with lipstick 
and rouge, into horizontal members of a perennial cocktail 
party", and this horrid pantomime is due, he says, to the fact 
that there has been a flight from the tragic facts of existence. 8 

There is, in the sceptical and sophisticated world of today, 
a morbid fear of death and an anxious avoidance of every- 
thing associated with it. The consequences of this may be 
seen, for example, in the field of education. A number of 
American educationalists are busily engaged in revising nursery 
rhymes. No longer are the ears of children to be offended 
with deeds of violence and stories of sudden death: Grimm's 
Fairy Tales — the tales of Hans Andersen — all are being 
expurgated and revised. All references to evil and wickedness, 
to suffering and death, are being suppressed and expunged. 
Thus children will learn about the Three Kind Mice who 

All ran after the farmer's wife, 

Who cut them some cheese with a carving knife. 

Did ever you hear such a tale in your life? 9 

By an interesting coincidence it is the same school of 
educationalists who are chiefly concerned with disseminating 
and making known "the facts of life." No longer are children 
to be threatened with complexes and laden with inhibitions; 
the facts of life are to be openly proclaimed. Tell the children 
all about the facts of life, but never tell them, they warn, about 
the facts of death. 

This is the astonishing and anomalous situation in which 
we find ourselves: on the one hand, the facts of life openly 
proclaimed; on the other hand, the facts of death, hidden, 
denied, ignored, and suppressed. 

It has been pointed out, however, that what has been 
repressed in life has reappeared in the realm of make-believe, 
and that what has been rejected by our sensitive educational- 

8 The Invisible Writing (Beacon, Boston, 1955), p. 158. 

» Joy Davidman, Smoke on the Mountain (Hodder and Staughton, London, 1955), 

p. 74. 


ists has been reaffirmed in the lurid pages of children's comic 
papers. Children, despite the protective precautions and elab- 
orate suppressions of their elders, are exposed, in the realm of 
comic literature, to the glorification of crime and cruelty, lust 
and sadism, and the faked and fictitious presentation is far 
more horrifying than the reality that has been denied. Goef- 
frey Gorer insists that if men refuse to come to terms with the 
realities of life in an open and dignified fashion then they must 
expect these realities to make themselves felt in other ways. 
"If we dislike the modern pornography of death," he writes, 
"then we must give back to death — natural death — its 
parade and publicity, readmit grief and mourning. If we 
make death unmentionable in polite society — 'not before the 
children' — we almost insure the continuation of the 'horror 
comic'. No censorship has ever been really effective." 10 

The fact remains that we live in the midst of a vast con- 
spiracy of silence. "Death is muffled up in illusions." Existen- 
tialism, however, points out that if we do not come to terms 
with death we cannot come to terms with life. This is the theme 
of Sartre's short story, The Wall. It is a discussion of man's 
capacity to stand up to torture and death. It is set in the context 
of the Spanish Civil War. Three Republican prisoners are in 
their cell on the night before their execution. Sartre describes 
their reactions during the tormenting hours of waiting, their 
humiliating bodily weakness and progressive demoralisation. 
Ibbieta, however, faces his fear and, by facing it, conquers it. 
He achieves a courage "on the other side of despair" ; he faces 
death in a state of "horrible calm", without illusion. 

This is what the generality of men are unable to do : they 
are unable to face death without illusion. Tolstoy makes this 
point with impressive power in his story, The Death of Ivan 
Illyich (a work which William Barrett describes as "a basic 
scripture for existential thought") - 11 Ivan Illyich refuses to face 
the fact that his illness is mortal. To all others the signs of 
death are already present. His wife, knowing his condition, per- 
suades him to take Communion. 

10 Identity and Anxiety (The Freedom Press of Glencoe, Illinois, 1960), p. 407. 

u "Existentialism as a Symptom of Man's Contemporary Crisis", in Spiritual Prob- 
lems in Contemporary Literature, edited by S. R. Hopper (Harper, New York, 
1957), p. 143. 


"My darling, do this for me ... It cannot hurt, 
and frequently it helps. Healthy people frequent- 
ly do it." 

He opened his eyes wide. 

"What? Communion? What for? It is not nec- 
essary! Still—' 5 
She burst out weeping. 

"Yes, my dear? I will send for our priest — he 
is such a nice man." 
"All right, very well," he muttered. 
When the priest came and took his confession, he 
softened, seemed to feel a relief from his doubts, 
and so from his suffering, and for a moment was 
assailed by hope . . . 

When, after the communion, he was put down on 
the bed, he for a moment felt easier, and again 
there appeared hope of life. He began to think of 
the operation which had been proposed to him. 
"I want to live, to live", he said to himself. His 
wife came back to congratulate him ; she said the 
customary words, and added "Truly, are you not 
feeling better?" 

Without looking at her, he said, "Yes". Her at- 
tire, her figure, the expression of the face, the 
sound of her voice, everything told him one and 
the same thing: "It is not the right thing. Every- 
thing which you have lived by is a lie, a decep- 
tion which conceals from you life and death." 
The moment he thought so, there arose his hat- 
red, and with his hatred came physical agonized 
sufferings, and with the sufferings the conscious- 
ness of inevitable, near perdition. 

It is time to analyse, in terms of greater particularity, 
the significance of death. What is it that gives to death its ter- 
ror and its sting? An answer may be found in the painfully de- 
tailed account which Dostoievsky gives of his own confrontation 
with death. He was arrested, together with other members of 
a student reading circle and charged with offenses against the 
Russian censorship. On December 22, 1849, the forty-four ac- 


cused were taken to the Semyonovsky drill ground. The sheriff 
read out the sentences. Again and again the fateful words were 
pronounced: "Sentenced to be shot!' 5 Years later Dostoievsky 
used to hear them as he awoke in the night. The accused were 
forced to put on the white shirts of the condemned, and for 
more than twenty minutes they stood in the bitter Russian cold 
— fifty degrees below freezing-point. A priest invited them to 
make their confessions; but only one did so. They all touched 
the crucifix with their lips, kissing it eagerly, hurriedly — just 
as though they were anxious to grasp something which might 
be useful to them afterwards. Dostoievsky kept thinking, and 
he actually said: "It is impossible. They can't mean to kill us." 
But his nearest companion pointed to a cart near the scaffold, 
with coffins covered with a large cloth. 

About twenty paces from where he was standing were 
three posts. The first three prisoners were fastened to them, 
with white caps drawn over their faces so that they could not 
see the rifles pointed at them. Then a group of soldiers took 
their stand opposite each post. Dostoievsky was the eighth, and 
therefore he would be among the third lot to go up. He had 
about five minutes to live, and those five minutes seemed to be 
a most interminable period, an enormous wealth of time; he 
seemed to be living, in those minutes, so many lives that there 
was no need as yet to think of the latest moment. He divided 
up the time into parts — one for saying farewell to his friends, 
two minutes for that ; then a couple more for thinking over his 
own life and all about himself; and another minute for a last 
look around. He contrived to kiss the two who were nearest 
to him, and he thought of his brother Mikhail and his family. 
Then he embarked on those two minutes which he had allotted 
to looking into himself. He put it to himself, as quickly and as 
clearly as possible, that here he was, a living, thinking man, 
and that in three minutes he would be a nobody; or if some- 
body or something, then what and where? A little way off there 
stood a church, and its gilded spire glittered in he sun. He 
stared stubbornly at this spire and at the rays of light; he got 
the idea that they were his new nature and that in three min- 
utes he would become one of them, amalgamated somehow 
with them. 


But worst of all was this thought : "What should I do if I 
were not to die now?" Men not condemned to die esteem life 
far too lightly. "What if I were to return to life again? What 
an eternity of days, and all mine! How I should grudge and 
count up every minute of it, so as to waste not a single instant !" 
This thought became such a terrible burden upon his brain that 
he could not bear it, and wished they would shoot him quickly 
and have done with it. He just waited and waited. 

And yet there was a terrible fear. He felt feeble and help- 
less ; there was a choking to his throat. He did not lose his wits, 
but he was absolutely powerless to move. Then, when the sol- 
diers had actually loaded their rifles, there was a shouting and 
other noises, and an officer came galloping across the square, 
waving a white handkerchief . . . He brought a gracious par- 
don from the Emperor. Dostoievsky's sentence was commuted 
to four years' imprisonment in Siberia and four years' service as 
a private soldier. 

Then the cart was uncovered. It contained, not coffins, but 
convict uniforms. The sentence of death had been only a threat, 
a "lesson not to be forgotten". But one who had been blind- 
folded to be shot had gone mad, and never recovered. Not one 
escaped without lifelong injury to his nervous system. And the 
twenty minutes without coats in the fierce cold of a Russian 
December morning meant that some had their ears and toes 
frozen, and one got chronic inflammation of the lungs which 
developed into tuberculosis. 

Dostoievsky confessed that he had not lived as he thought 
he would live if he were to "return to life again". He did not 
keep careful account of his minutes when that "eternity of 
days" was returned to him, those riches of time, but wasted 
many a minute. A. E. Baker makes this illuminating comment: 

All his life he was the man for whom time had 
stood still, who had faced the ultimate brute fear, 
who knew, as Andre Malraux has expressed it, 
that if life is worth nothing, nothing is worth a 
life. Arthur Koestler was condemned to death by 
Franco's lot. He speaks of those about to die as 
"men without shadows, dismissed from the ranks 
of the mortals". Dostoievsky had shared "the 
most complete experience of freedom that can be 


granted a man". This was behind the everpresent 
concern that filled each of his books. He was 
always trying to distract his attention from the 
soldiers loading their rifles, by the sight of "the 
general human distress, the misery of life and 
death". Kierkegaard was enigmatically prophetic 
of Dostoievsky's literary achievement when he 
wrote: "I have determined to read the writings 
only of the men who were executed or were in 
danger in some other way". 12 
It was this traumatic experience, so shocking and so sear- 
ing, that led Dostoievsky to conclude that the certainty of in- 
escapable death and the uncertainty of what is to follow is the 
most dreadful anguish in the world. The accuracy of this obser- 
vation must now be further explored. 

On the one hand it is true that all must die. Our destiny, 
like the destiny of all men, is six feet of ground. "Dying my 
death", says Heidegger, "is the one thing no-one else can do 
for me." In the triumph of death all our proud pretensions are 
humble and abased. Sir Walter Raleigh, in the last sentences of 
his unfinished History of the World, apostrophises the inexor- 
able and triumphant power of death : 

O elequent, just, and mighty Death ! whom none 
could advise, thou hast persuaded, what none 
hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the 
world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of 
the world and despised. Thou hast drawn to- 
gether all the far fetched greatness, all the pride, 
cruelties, and ambition of man, and covered it 
all with these two narrow words: Hie Jacet. 
All our swelling ambitions, all our aspirations and achievements, 
all our hopes and fears, find their grave at last in the experience 
of a common mortality. Francis Thompson speaks of man who 
. . . dogs the secret footsteps of the heavens, 
Sifts in his hands the stars, weighs them as gold 

And yet, is successive unto nothing but patrimony 
of a little mould 
And entail of four planks. 13 

13 Prophets for a Day of Judgment (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1944), pp. 


Pascal is right : "The last act is tragic, however happy all the 
rest of the play is; at the last a little earth is thrown upon our 
head, and that is the end forever." 14 

The ignominious fact is that we all must die. God's judg- 
ment concerning man is this: "You are dust, and to dust you 
shall return." ( Genesis 3:19). 

There is, however, not only the certainty of inescapable 
death, there is also the uncertainty of what is to follow. It is 
this which fills our hearts with fear. "He who pretends to face 
death without fear", Rousseau affirms, "is a liar." "No rational 
man", says Dr. Johnson, in his blunt affirmative way, "can die 
without uneasy apprehension." The fear of death, he says, is so 
natural to man that all life is one long effort not to think about 
it. Epicurus wisely observes that "what men fear is not that 
death is annihilation but that it is not". It is not the fact of 
death itself but the gnawing uncertainty of what lies beyond 
the grave. 

The poet Yeats writes : 

Nor dread, nor hope, attend 
A dying animal; 
A man awaits his end, 
Dreading and hoping all. 15 

Hamlet speaks fearfully of that "undiscovered country from 
whose bourn no traveller returns" which "puzzles the will, and 
makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that 
we know not of". "Thus conscience", he adds unhappily, "doth 
make cowards of us all." 16 Dryden frankly confesses 

Death, in itself, is nothing; but we fear, 

To be we know not what, we know not where. 17 

If we enquire, more closely, what it is of which men are 
afraid, we must reply that it is the thought of that which lies 
beyond the grave. There is, says T. S. Eliot, in the sombre, 
haunting words of the Chorus in Murder in the Cathedral. 

13 "An Anthem of Earth", The Works of Francis Thompson (Burns and Oates, 

London, 1937), Vol. ii, p. 263. 

u Pensees, 210 (Dutton, New York, 1931), p. 61. 

18 W. B. Yeats, "Death", Collected Poems (Macmillan, London, 1955), p. 264. 

18 Act III, Scene 1. 

17 Aureng - Zebe, iv, i. 


. . . and behind the face of Death, the Judgment 
And behind the Judgment the Void, more hor- 
rid than active shapes of hell ; 
Emptiness, absence, separation from God; 
The horror of the effortless journey, to the empty 

Which is no land, only emptiness, absence, the 

Where those who were men can no longer turn 
the mind 

To distraction, delusion, escape, into dream, 

Where the soul is no longer deceived, for there 
are no objects, no tones, 

No colours, no forms to distract, to divert the 

From seeing itself, foully united forever, nothing 
with nothing, 

Not what we call death, but what beyond death 
is not death, 
We fear, we fear. ls 

The Bible says: "It is appointed for men to die once, and 
after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) Brunner com- 
ments: "It is not the fact that men die . . . but that they die as 
they do, in fear and agony with the anxious uncertainty about 
that which lies on the other side of death, with a bad con- 
science and the fear of possible punishment." 19 Reinhold Nie- 
buhr adds: "Nothing expresses the insecurity and anxiety of 
human existence more profoundly than the fact that the fear 
of extinction and the fear of judgment are compounded in the 
fear of death." 20 

The justice of this observation may be demonstrated by 
reference to the testimony of Samuel Johnson. He was tor- 
mented by the thought of possible damnation. 

18 The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950 (Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1952), 
p. 210. 

19 The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, Dogmatics (Lutterworth, 
London, 1952), Vol. ii, p. 129. 

20 The Nature and Destiny of Man (Nisbet, London, 1943), Vol. ii, p. 303. 


JOHNSON: "I am afraid that I may be one of 
those who shall be damned" (looking dismally). 
DR. ADAMS: "What do you mean by damn- 
ed?" JOHNSON: (passionately and loudly) 
"Sent to Hell, Sir, and punished everlastingly." 
BOSWELL : "But may not a man attain to such 
a degree of hope as not to be uneasy from the 
fear of death?" JOHNSON: "A man may have 
such a degree of hope as to keep quiet. You see 
I am not quiet, from the vehemence with which 
I talk; but I do not despair." MRS. ADAMS: 
"You seem, Sir to forget the merits of our Re- 
deemer." JOHNSON: "Madam, I do not forget 
the merits of my Redeemer; but my Reedemer 
has said that he will set some on his right 
hand and some on his left." He was in gloomy 
agitation, and said, "I'll have no more on't." 21 

This obsessive fear of eternal damnation alternated with 
another fear, even more awful, that of annihilation, Often 
in fits of absence of mind to which he was liable, he would be 
heard muttering to himself the lines from Measure for Measure, 

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where ; 
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot. 22 

On one occasion Miss Seward was rash enough to say to 
him that at least one fear of death was absurd, "the dread of 
annihilation, which is only a pleasing sleep without a dream", 
which Johnson violently denied, saying: "It is neither pleasing, 
nor sleep" 2 * 

It is sin, the Apostle says, which gives to death its sting. 
(I Corinthians 15 : 56) It is the consciousness of guilt that makes 
a man afraid, the secret awareness of judgment to come. The 
Christian man, however, is able to face death with a quiet 
conscience and a sure hope: a quiet conscience, because he 
knows that his sins are pardoned and forgiven; a sure hope, 
because Jesus has risen again from the dead. By his death and 

21 James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (Dent, London, 1927), Vol. 11, 
p. 526. 

22 Act III, Scene 1. 

28 Quoted, W. J. Bate, The Achievement of Samuel Johnson (O.U.P. New York, 
1961), p. 162. 


resurrection, says the Apostle, Jesus has "abolished death and 
brought life and immortality to light through the gospel". (2 
Timothy 1:10) 

If we ask what this means in the life of the Christian man 
we cannot do better than quote Bunyan's immortal description 
of the way in which Mr. Valiant-for-Truth passed through the 
river of death. 

Then said he, "I am going to my fathers, and 
though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet 
now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have 
been at to arrive where I am. My sword, I give to 
him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and 
my courage and skill, to him that can get it. My 
marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness 
for me that I have fought his battles who will 
now be my rewarder." When the day that he 
must go hence was come, many accompanied him 
to the river side, unto which as he went he said, 
"Death, where is thy sting?" And as he went 
down deeper he said, "Grave, where is thy vic- 
tory?" So he passed over, and the trumpets 
sounded for him on the other side. 

The Christian man is able to face, calm and unafraid 
the final reality of death. With Edward Wilson of Antarctica 
he can say: "Death has no terrors". 24 By contrast, the natural 
man, without God and therefore without hope, is uneasy and 
secretly afraid. "I am", Thomas Hobbes confessed, "about to 
take my last voyage — a great leap in the dark." 25 

In popular mythology death has always been portrayed 
as a hideous skeleton with empty eye sockets, and a long in- 
exorable ringer summoning man, and refusing to be denied. 
In Lucerne there is a bridge known as the Bridge of Death. In 
every panel of the bridge there is a picture of death breaking 
into life. Death comes to the soldier, the statesman, the mer- 
chant, the beggar, he comes to all and he comes to each, he 
comes, a grisly apparition filling the heart with dismay. 

24 Quoted, George Seaver, Edward Wilson of the Antarctic (John Murray. London, 
1946), p. 294. 

25 J. Watkins, Characteristic Anecdotes of Men of Learning and Genius (London, 
1808) in loc. 


Boris Pasternak, in his Nobel prize winning novel, Doctor 
Zhivago, refers to "the centuries of systematic work devoted to 
the solution of the enigma of death so that death itself may 
eventually be overcome". 26 For the Christian man death, how- 
ever, is not an enigma but an enemy, an enemy whose power 
has been broken and whose sting has been removed. It is true 
that "the wages of sin is death", but it is also true that "the free 
gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 
6:23) At the last day, when God's triumph is complete, death 
itself will be abolished: "And God will wipe away every tear 
from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there 
be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former 
things have passed away." ( Revelation 21:4) 

The natural man knows nothing about this assurance of a 
blessed immortality. For him, as John Donne once said, "death 
is a bloody conflict, and no victory at last; a tempestous sea, 
and no harbour at last; a slippery heighth and no footing; a 
desperate fall and no bottom." 27 

For the Christian man, by contrast, death is, in the words 
of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "the supreme festival on the road to 
freedom" : an occasion for joyous thanksgiving and confident 

It is impressive to note how often Christian martyrs have 
invoked the metaphor of marriage to describe what death 
means. On the evening before his martrydom Bishop Nicholas 
Ridley invited his keeper's wife, and others at the table, to 
his marriage : "for, said he, tomorrow I must be married, and 
so showed himself to be as merry as ever he had been before." 2S 
Sir Thomas Herbert tells us that Charles I went forth to his 
execution with the gay exhilaration of a bridegroom going 
fourth to meet his bride: "This is my second Marriage Day; 
I would be as trim today as may be; for before night I hope 
to be espoused to my blessed Jesus." 29 

Trevor Huddleston, author of Naught for Your Comfort, 
has edited a collection of letters, written by men on the eve of 
their execution at the hands of the Nazis, entitled, Dying We 

20 (Collins, London, 1958), p. 19. 

27 The Sermons of John Donne (New York, 1958), p. 233. 

28 J. Fox, A Universal History of Christian Martydrom (London) 1848), p. 862. 

29 The Trial of Charles I (The Folio Society, London, 1959), p. 126. 


Live. From his prison cell in Hamburg Hermann Lange wrote 
a final farewell letter to his parents. It is a letter of jubilant 
expectation and joyous hope. 

When this letter comes to your hands, I shall no 
longer be among the living. The thing that has 
occupied our thoughts constantly for many 
months, never leaving them free, is now about to 
happen. If you ask me what state I am in, I can 
only answer: I am, first, in a joyous mood, and 
second, filled with great anticipation. As regards 
the first feeling, today means the end of all suf- 
fering and all earthly sorrow for me — and "God 
will wipe away every tear from your eyes". What 
consolation, what marvellous strength emanates 
from faith in Christ, who has preceded us in 
death. In Him, I have put my faith, and precisely 
today I have faith in Him more firmly than 
ever, and I shall not yet be confounded. As so 
often before, I should like now also to refer you 
once again to St. Paul. Look up the following 
passage: 1 Corinthians 15: 43f, 55; Romans 14: 
8. In truth, look where you will — everywhere 
you will find jubilation over the grace that makes 
us children of God. What can befall a child of 
God? Of what, indeed, should I be afraid? On 
the contrary — rejoice, once more I say to you, 
rejoice. And as to the second feeling, this day 
brings the greatest hour of my life! Everything 
that till now I have done, struggled for, and 
accomplished has at bottom been directed to this 
one goal, whose barrier I shall penetrate today. 
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have 
entered into the heart of man, the things which 
God hath prepared for them that love Him" ( 1 
Cor. 2:9). For me believing will become seeing, 
hope will become possession, and I shall forever 
share in Him who is love. Should I not, then, be 
filled with anticipation? What is it all going to 
be like? The things that up to this time I have 
been permitted to preach about, I shall now see ! 
There will be no more secrets nor tormenting 


puzzles. Today is the day on which I return to 
the home of my Father; how could I fail to be 
excited and full of anticipation? And then I shall 
see once more all those who have been near and 
dear to me here on earth. 

From the very beginning I have put everything 
into the hands of God, if now he demands this 
end of me — good, His will be done. 

Until we meet gain above in the presence of the 
Father of Light, 

your joyful Hermann. 30 

That is the authentic Christian confidence: a sure and 
certain hope of resurrection unto eternal life. T. S. Eliot likens 
the way men die to the whispering of a dying dog : 

This is the way the world ends, 
This is the way the world ends, 
This is the way the world ends, 
Not with a bang but a whimper. 31 

For the Christian man, however, the last word is not with the 
grave but with God : that is why there is no whimpering and 
no whining, no repining and no complaining. That is why the 
Christian man is able to say, with the Shepherd Psalmist: 
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of 
death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me" (23:4), and that 
is why the Apostle Paul is able to say: "For I am sure that 
neither death, nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the 
love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord". (Romans 8:38-9) . 

yo (Fontana Books, London, 1958), pp. 89-90. 

31 "The Hollow Men", The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950. (Harcourt, 

Brace, New York, 1952), p. 59. 


Contemporary Theological Commentary 

From England 


There is widespread agreement among English Christians 
of the most diverse theological persuasions, that something is 
radically wrong with the state of the Church in the country. 
David Edwards, editor of the SCM Press, spoke for many when 
he wrote last year : 

Today change is obviously desirable in English 
Christianity. Even more than the country's secu- 
lar institutions, the English churches need reju- 
venating because they are not doing their jobs 
efficiently in the modern world. [Available sta- 
tistics] suggest that active support for the 
churches comes from under ten per cent of the 
population . . . For all the devoted labour to be 
observed in them, the English churches need a 
revival. They are not aflame with faith or over- 
flowing with purposeful activity. 1 

While the condition of the churches is universally diag- 
nosed as critical, doctors disagree on the kind of treatment re- 
quired. Two movements currently abroad in the country — 
each concerned for the churches' recovery — may be termed 
"the Quest for a Relevant Message" and "the Quest for the 
Life of the Spirit". 2 This article seeks, at the risk of gross over- 
simplification, to describe the movements as they are repre- 
sented in and about Cambridge University. It may be ques- 
tioned how far the situation here is typical. Yet in Cambridge, 
perhaps as much as anywhere else in England, each of these 
"quests" is underway. 

/. The setting: Cambridge and Christianity 

In certain respects this university is typical of many. An 
appreciable number of students profess Christianity in one form 

1 The Honest to God Debate, pp. 14f. 

2 These titles are an attempt to represent the leading ideas of the respective move- 
ments. It is not suggested that the concerns are mutually exclusive. 


or another. Of the 19 religious societies listed in Varsity Hand- 
book, 13 are Christian. The largest of these, the Cambridge 
Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (or "CICCU", an organ of 
IVF) averages an attendance of 250 at its weekly Bible Read- 
ings. All but one of the 23 colleges provide Anglican chapel 
services; one estimate is that a quarter of the students attend 
chapel at least occasionally. 

The prevalent attitudes range from total indifference to 
blatant antagonism. By many an undergraduate the Church is 
taken for granted, but not taken seriously. Many of her beliefs 
and practices are familiar and tolerable, but thought to be 
"rather boring" — a boredom perhaps occasionally relieved 
by amusement at a clergyman's expense. Of Christianity's an- 
tagonists, the most noteworthy are the Humanists. They cannot 
claim to have made the impact upon Cambridge that their 
sister society has made upon Oxford; 3 yet their numbers are 
said to be increasing. One of the Church's most vocal opponents 
in the university is Dr. Francis Crick, Nobel Prizewinner and 
avowed atheist, who has recently gained some (though no 
official!) support for his proposal that college chapel services 
be abolished, and the buildings used for other purposes. 

Yet the situation in Cambridge during the past two years 
could not be called typical. If apathy and antagonism toward 
Christianity still prevail, there has also been a remarkable out- 
break of interest in Christian theology. For this, our first "ques- 
ters" deserve much of the credit. 

//. The Quest for a Relevant Message 

Published in 1962 was Soundings, by nine Cambridge dons 
and a professor in Birmingham U. The Introduction states : 

The authors of this volume of essays cannot per- 
suade themselves that the time is ripe for major 
works of theological construction or reconstruc- 
tion ... It is a time for making soundings, not 
charts or maps (p. ix) . Our task is to try to see 

3 The Oxford Humanists number about 1000 (in a university of 9000, also the 
size of Cambridge). On Feb. 18, 1964, The Cambridge Debating Union considered 
the motion "Humanism without God is not enough", and passed it by 159 votes to 
101. According to Varsity (undergraduate newspaper), the reason for the success 
of such a motion "is simply that a great army of the faithful, who never set foot 
in the chamber on other occasions, turn up just to vote, thereby saving God the 
embarrassment of losing face in the Union." 


what the questions are that we ought to be facing 
in the nineteen-sixties (p. xi) . 4 

In February, 1963, a course of four lectures entitled "Objections 
to Christian Belief" was addressed to university audiences aver- 
aging 1500. Later in the year the series was published; in the 
Introduction Dr. A. R. Vidler wrote: "We hold that it is more 
important to try to plumb the depths of the objections, without 
complacently assuming that answers are readily available. 
[These lectures were] intended to be disturbing rather than re- 
assuring" (p. 8; cf. "Religion", Time, March 6, 1964). 

Then in March, 1963, came the first four printings of 
Honest to God, by John A. T. Robinson, an Anglican bishop 
and formerly Dean of Clare College, Cambridge. Essentially a 
popularization of Bultmann, Tillich and Bonhoeffer (see "Re- 
ligion", Time, April 12, 1963), the book has been a runaway 
best seller, 5 and has stirred up the country's hottest theological 
controversy in years. When the Bishop came to preach in Cam- 
bridge last October, the University Church was jammed with 
1500-2000 people. 

Whatever their differences, the authors of the above works 
appear to concur in their general view of the "contemporary 
situation", and of the Church's task if she is to have much 
effect upon this situation. 

Dr. Robinson is representative. The burden of his Cam- 
bridge sermon in October (entitled "What's the Point of the 
Honest to God Debate?"), was: We live in an age that marks 
a revolt against the metaphyscial, the supranatural, the mytho- 
logical and the religious. Faced with this situation, the Church 
must be prepared to subject her most cherished beliefs to the 
closest scrutiny. 6 Christian theology must make clear the dis- 
tinction between the reality of God and the various imagery 
that seeks to describe this reality. The reality is absolute, but 
the imagery is not. Accordingly, contemporary man's under- 
standing of God and the Christ-event must not be made de- 
pendent upon his acceptance of certain thought-forms and 

4 Cf. two of the chapter headings: "Beginning All Over Again"; "Towards a 
Christology for Today." 

5 As of last March, nearly a million copies were in print. 

6 In a course of lectures last winter (corresponding to the "Objections" series), 
two of the titles were: "Is God real?"; and "Is Christ unique?". 


myths by which the Bible represents these realities (e.g., God 
"up there"; Christ born of a virgin, and literally "ascending") . 
We must be prepared to discard old images and replace them 
with new, if men are hereby enabled better to understand the 
reality behind the images. 7 Furthermore, the Church must 
stress that Christianity has to do with all of life ; a man must not 
be asked to enter a "religious sector" in order to become a 

It is clear from conversations in college dining halls and 
common rooms, and from the proliferation of talks and discus- 
sions on the ideas propounded in Soundings, Objections and 
Honest to God, that this general approach appeals to a lot of 
undergraduates. How many of them are intellectually stimu- 
lated, and no more? How many are confirmed in their skep- 
ticism? How many genuine commitments to Christ result? Per- 
haps future surveys will provide some of the answers. 

III. The Quest for the Life of the Spirit. 

The Rev. David Watson, Curate of an Anglican church 
in Cambridge, stated last March (in a private communica- 
tion) : 

A small but growing number of Christians, in- 
cluding many ministers, have experienced an in- 
tense thirst for the living Christ. Many have 
known the 'baptism 5 or 'filling' of the Spirit (the 
terminology varies). Some of the 'gifts of the 
Spirit' have been in evidence. Most of all, there 
has been a longing to see the glory of the Lord : 
c O that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come 

Accordingly, this year's Islington Conference, convened on 
January 7 in London by Anglican Evangelical clergy, was de- 
voted to the theme The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church, 
and featured addresses on "The Individual Christian and the 
Fulness of the Spirit", and "The Country and Revival." 8 

7 Cf. Hugh Montefiore, Vicar of the Cambridge U. Church, writing in New Radical 

(Cambridge Tory periodical) : "Radical reform, yes; but a completely fresh start — 

why, it's not even worth the trouble. Christian iconoclasm is needed; but not the 

destruction of that which the image seeks to represent" (Spring, 1964). 

8 A series of CICCU Bible Readings, on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, 

presented in the Easter Term of 1962 by Dr. Leon Morris, has proven to be timely 



Whatever the differences among those of whom Mr. Wat- 
son speaks, there is fundamental agreement: The great ma- 
jority of Christians, they are convinced, have hardly begun to 
claim the victory over sin that is promised as the fruit of Christ's 
work (Rom. 6) ; have hardly begun to lay hold of the resources 
and gifts available through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 
5:16; Eph. 5:18) ; and are not persistently and passionately 
praying for the Lord to visit the Church and the land with 
unprecedented blessing. From a Cambridge pulpit came the 
challenge last March : "There is much zeal manifest for making 
Christianity relevant. There are shocking, provocative remarks 
to make people sit up and take notice. But how much agoniz- 
ing prayer is there, for God to revive His people and draw 
sinners to Jesus Christ?" For men to understand the Biblical 
message, and realize that it does bear upon their particular 
situation, the work of the Spirit of God is absolutely essential. 
Otherwise human effort, however ingenious and zealous, is 
futile. Thus the Church needs, above all else, to pray (in the 
manner of 2 Chron. 7:14) for a mighty work of the Spirit, 
that in and through the Church Jesus Christ may receive the 
glory due unto His name. 

It is difficult at present to measure the effect of this "quest" 
on England in general and Cambridge in particular. It may be 
noted, however, that a number of persons are clearly manifest- 
ing, in new (for them) and very practical ways, the "fruit" of 
Gal. 5:22f.; and have been instrumental in bringing others — 
sometimes in great numbers — to a saving knowledge of Christ. 

IV. Concluding remarks 

The men of the first "quest" are grappling with a very real 
problem, namely, How to present the Christian message intel- 
ligibly and meaningfully to the English people (who have been 
called a "post-Christian society") . Yet they sometimes give the 
impression of depending more upon human prowess than upon 
divine power. Thus the leitmotif of the second "quest" offers a 
needed corrective, and a salutary reminder to us all. 9 

From both these lines of approach may be learned the 
importance of letting Scripture, under the illumination of the 

9 Dr. J. I. Packer writes of Robinson's book: "The bishop's fear that if we stick to 
preaching 'the old, old story' nobody will believe it, makes one wonder whether he 
still believes in the Holy Spirit (a topic on which, perhaps significantly, Honest to 
God has little to say)" (Keep Yourselves from Idols, July, 1963, p. 19). 


Spirit, speak to us afresh; of being open to whatever it may 
have to teach us. Let us ask anew : What does the Bible teach 
(e.g.) about the way of salvation? the Atonement? baptism? the 
end of the present order? What did this particular passage 
mean to its writer and his first readers? How can it be applied 
in my life and parish here and now? Am I really claiming this 
promise? or living according to this commandment? 

But let us beware, lest in reading the Biblical record 
through the spectacles of a "contemporary situation" or a 
system of thought, our spectacles become, not aids to reading, 
but heavily-tinted sun glasses. 

Knox Chamblin 

(Mr. Chamblin is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary in the class of 
1960. He is working toward a doctorate in New Testament Studies at Cambridge 
University in England.) 


Contemporary Theological Commentary 

From Germany 


Two churches in Bremen have abolished the practice of 
confirmation. This news was widely reported not only in the 
church press but also in the daily papers. The pros and cons 
were hotly debated. In these discussions, it became manifest 
how deeply, on the one hand, this rite is rooted in our tradi- 
tion and how much it is desired. But on the other hand, it has 
become obvious that its practice raises doubts and questions in 
our time. 


Because most of the churches in the United States do not 
understand confirmation in the way in which we practice it a 
brief historical sketch is in order. Even though confirmation 
as an official ecclesiastical function became the rule everywhere 
in Germany only in the 19th century (last in Hamburg 1832) it 
is recognized as a legitimate child of the Reformation. All 
Reformers were united in rejecting the sacr amentum con fir ma- 
tionis which originally was joined with baptism. Only with the 
increasing importance of infant baptism from the 4th and 5 th 
centuries onwards it became an independent rite in the west, 
delegated solely to the office of the Bishop. According to Roman 
Catholic understanding it takes the place of the laying on of 
hands which goes back to apostolic times, (cf Acts 8, 14-19; 
19, 2-6) . In this rite hands are laid on children when they are 
about 10 years old and their forehead is anointed with holy 
oil. This is to effect a renewed reception of the Holy Spirit, and 
thus it represents added baptismal grace and a strengthening 
of faith. 

Since such a sacrament cannot be justified by Scripture, 
the reformers reject it outright. On the other hand, they recog- 
nize the necessity to instruct the growing children, who had 
been baptized as infants, in the faith in order to prepare them 
for their participation in the Lord's Supper. Thus there de- 


velops on a Lutheran foundation — mainly under the influence 
of Bugenhagen — a catechetical type of confirmation: The 
children are instructed in the catechism and then at the end 
of the instruction period they are confirmed. After confirma- 
tion they may take part in the Lord's Supper if this has the 
approval of parents and pastor. Pertinent to this type of con- 
firmation is Luther's phrase: "Confirmation is instruction." 

However, our modern practice of confirmation has its 
proper roots in the Strassburg reformation which stressed more 
church discipline. Martin Bucer adapts the thought of Erasmus 
of Rotterdam substituting the Roman Catholic sacramentum 
confirmationis intentionally through an act of confirmation — 
similar to that of the Bohemian Brethren. In Strassburg itself 
this type of confirmation could not be established on account of 
the growing influence of Lutheranism, but it was accepted in 
the practice of the Church in Hessen (1539) under Bucer's 
urging, and from there it spread victoriously. 

Martin Bucer was engaged in active controversy with the 
non-conformist thoughts of heretics and anabaptists. Their aim 
was to establish the "pure church", i.e., a church of true be- 
lievers which should correspond to the congregations of the 
national regions. That is the reason for Bucer's attempt to 
establish by means of the practice of confirmation a community 
centered around the Lord's Table and adhering to church dis- 
cipline. Following instruction in the catechism the children 
make public confession of their faith and obedience during the 
worship service. By laying on of hands and prayer the power of 
the Holy Spirit is invoked for those thus confirmed. The formu- 
la used at the laying on of hands is: "Receive the Holy Spirit, 
protection and guard from all evil ..." By this action they are 
presented and confirmed as true members of the Church. 

From their original territories Bucer's as well as Bugen- 
hagen's types of confirmation have spread through various re- 
gions of Germany and beyond. So, the order of Geneva corres- 
ponds more to the catechetical type : Following instruction the 
children — as early as 10 years old! — are publicly questioned 
concerning their knowledge of the catechism ; their answers are 
valued as confession of their faith. 

Pietism (foremost Spener) and Rationalism have done 
much — for very different reasons — to establish the practice 


of confirmation generally. If earlier the emphasis was on be- 
coming certified as a genuine member of the Body of Christ, His 
Church, under the influence of Pietism stress is laid much more 
on the subjective confession of personal faith by the children in 
the covenant which God has made with them in baptism. This 
understanding is very much akin to the ideas prevailing in 
more recent times, and thus it contributed greatly to the final 
establishment of the practice of confirmation in Germany. 


The Protestant Church has not formulated a doctrine of 
confirmation, since confirmation was regarded as an ecclesias- 
tical rite, but not as a divine institution (sacrament) . There is 
no clear theological evaluation of it due to the fact that at its 
introduction during the Reformation period various factors 
contributed to its establishment. Hence, all that we can do 
nowadays, is to attempt a generally held summary of theological 
concepts concerning the meaning of confirmation which might 
be expressed in this way: Confirmation is a church rite. It is 
the means by which the congregation receives the confession of 
the Christian faith from the children who were baptized shortly 
after their birth and prior to confirmation were instructed in 
the doctrines of the church. It thereupon confers on them the 
right to participation in the Lord's Supper by supplication and 
a benediction personally applied by the laying on of hands. 
Thus they are confirmed as members of the congregation gath- 
ered around word and sacrament. 

On the basis of evangelical interpretation there can be no 
confirmation without prior instruction. These classes take gen- 
erally two years (here and there a one or else three year period 
might be the custom) and they follow a two hour per week 
pattern. Instruction is given as a rule to children of 14-15 years 
of age. Attempts to push confirmation to a higher age level — 
say 18 years of age, as is the practice generally in Switzerland 
and in Holland — have failed in Germany for the simple reason 
that pupils of the elementary school level leave school when 
they are 14 years old. Thus, instruction after that event would 
be rather difficult. 

The communicants classes are under supervision of a 
special catechetical department of the church and they are con- 


ducted in conjunction with religious instruction in the public 
schools, Sunday School and Church work among young people. 
The material to be taught is generally fixed by the catechisms 
of the churches concerned, Luther's short catechism or the 
Heidelberg catechism. However, more is involved than merely 
knowing the material presented in the catechism : the children 
should be led to responsible participation in the life of the 

After the last lesson, at the latest the Sunday before con- 
firmation, the children are presented to and examined before 
the congregation. At this occasion the children must show what 
they know regarding Christian teaching. Hence, the main part 
consists of a catechetical exercise. Discussing the content of a 
passage of Scripture essential Christian doctrines are made 
plain. Thus the congregation should feel that the children to 
be confirmed should rightly be admitted to the Lord's Supper. 

The confirmation itself takes place in a solemn Sunday 
service, generally a Sunday during Lent. The act of confirma- 
tion follows the sermon. The children to be confirmed are 
asked to make public confession of the Christian faith. In re- 
sponse the Apostles' Creed — either by themselves or together 
with the congregation. This is followed by the confirmation 
vow. The children are asked if they wish to live in the Christian 
faith, keep close to God's Word and Sacrament, be and remain 
faithful members of the Church. To their affirmative "yes" the 
congregation responds with a prayer of intercession. Then the 
rite of confirmation is enacted which is not understood as the 
imparting of a special power (against the Roman Catholic 
understanding and also against Bucer's "Receive the Holy 
Spirit . . .") but as a personal application of the prayer of inter- 
cession. Hands are laid on the kneeling children to be confirmed 
and each one is given a word from the Bible as a memory text. 
Following the service or in a special service a little later the 
communicants participate toether in the Lord's Supper. 

Problem and Promise 

In this relationship of Holy Supper and confirmation there 
arises the problem of confirmation. There are questions which 
have been discussed for nearly 100 years in our Protestant 
churches, ever since they have been clearly stated by J. H. 


Wichern. It is an undeniable fact that for many communicants 
the service of confirmation is the last one they attend and the 
Lord's Supper the last in which they participate. That is the 
problem of confirmation which really is the problem of a 
Christendom which has become unchurched. Can we justify 
in the light of this the vow of children at their confirmation 
and their participation as a group in the Lord's Supper? If not, 
should not the whole practice of confirmation be abolished? 

Today many regard the promise to remain disciples of 
Jesus, to attend regularly divine service and to obey the rules 
of the church as asking too much of the children at their con- 
firmation. It is pretty obvious that they say their "yes" of 
affirmation in most cases only as a thing that is conventionally 
done, and thus the demand for such a vow could be regarded 
as a temptation to take truth not too seriously. Furthermore it 
must be asked if children of 14 years of age are not overbur- 
dened in any case psychologically with such demands. Many 
churches, therefore, do not any more demand a vow in their 
new orders of confirmation, but simply request the confession 
of faith in the reciting of the Creed. The practice of infant 
baptism when this confession was made vicariously by parents 
and god-parents necessarily raises the question of personal con- 
fession of the child to be confirmed. Before the children are 
admitted to the Lord's Supper they should express their faith in 
a creedal statement corresponding to their state of general 

Also in regard to the Lord's Supper the danger of partici- 
pation for merely conventional reasons exists. Out of pastoral 
concern the attempt is made to avoid abuse by eliminating the 
special Communion Service when the confirmed children atend 
together as a group. A general invitation is extended to the 
congregation to come to the Lord's Table, and it is hoped that 
in this way only those children will come who really desire to 
do so. However in most churches the practice of having a 
special service for the group as a whole has remained valid — 
in the confidence of the Lord's promise to give Himself to all 
who come. 

In view of these perils and trials should we not give up the 
practice of confirmation completely? If we did this, we would 
throw away a great opportunity which is still given to a "state- 


church". It is still true that practically all baptized persons in 
West Germany take instruction for confirmation. We still have 
the possibility to sow the seed of the Word of God into the 
hearts of these children. Let us, therefore, use these opportuni- 
ties which are given to us with this period of Christian instruc- 
tion. As long as the practice of infant baptism — the legitimacy 
of which needs to be critically examined in a secularized state- 
church — is maintained, teaching classes as a kind of retarded 
instruction for baptism are absolutely necessary, (cf. the con- 
nection of baptism and teaching in Matthew 28: 19-20). Only 
we must be careful to give our instruction in such a manner that 
it leads to a glad and free confession of faith and to a proper 
growth into the life of the church. He who cannot make this 
confession should not be put under moral or civic obligation to 
partake in the Service of Confirmation. Above all, however, we 
must take care that the congregation of adults corresponds truly 
to that which is content of our instruction regarding faith and 
life of the church given to the children to be confirmed. These 
young Christians can only be confirmed as members of a com- 
munity which is indeed the church of Jesus Christ. 

Gerhard Wehmeier 

(Mr. Wehmeier, who was a graduate student at Columbia Theological Seminary 
during the 1959-60 session is the pastor of a Reformed Church congregation in 
Germany. ) 


Contemporary Theological Commentary 

From Italy 


Since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we 
have been inundated by a flood of press releases, commentaries, 
interpretations, press conferences, statements by Council Fath- 
ers and Observers, and other documents. 

It is difficult, however, to get an idea of exactly what the 
Council itself looks like. We are familiar with the deliberations 
of the sessions, but what of the actual appearance of the 

The following is an attempt to describe Vatican II as it 
looks from the inside. I attended the final sitting of the second 
session last December 4, by virtue of a press pass. This pass 
worked magic — it was stamped with the crest of the Pope's 
butler — and more or less in the capacity of translator I entered 
the Vatican. 

To get into St. Peter's it was necessary to enter the Vati- 
can on one side and walk clear around the basilica through the 
Vatican State (an interesting journey in itself) to the far side. 

The cardinals and bishops and their entourages were also 
entering and it took some doing to worm my way through the 
confusion. Once I was saluted, mistakenly, by a Swiss Guard 
dressed in armor. 

Inside I found the press section to be very advantageously 
placed — right beside the papel altar, on the platform of which 
the Pope's throne was set up. Thus we in the press section were 
nearer the center of activity than even the Council Fathers and 
had a splendid view of all the proceedings. 

There were clerics of every imaginable high rank and 
spectacular manner of dress conceivable. It was a caprice, a 
fantasia, a macedonia of prelates and patriarchs. There were 
stiff diplomats in tails (ambassadors to the Holy See), with 
their ladies. Some of these diplomats wore so many medals that 
their figures bulged. 


The place was a forest of high bishop's hats — which inci- 
dentally, fold up. 

Some men were running around dressed in Elizabethan 
costumes, complete with swords and high ruffled collars. There 
were Noble Guards in meteoric costumes, wearing headdresses 
with long black manes hanging down their backs to the belt. 
One of these was stationed at each corner of the platform of 
the papal altar. They were relieved at intervals during the 
morning, as were the armored Swiss Guards, by their col- 
leagues. If the Swiss Guards are composed of sons of noble 
Swiss families, the Noble Guards are made up of noble Roman 

One of these Noble Guards had trouble with his headdress 
during the ceremonies. Somehow a few strands of it got looped 
over his ear. Naturally he could not break his rigid stance 
and lose presence by lifting a hand to fix it, so he tried in- 
clining his head slightly to the side and twitching the ear, 
but it didn't work and eventually he gave up and just stood 
there taking it. 

The grand procession came in, led by the cardinals. 
These filed singly and very pompously one by one into their 
special section near the front. Then the Pope was carried in 
on his portable throne, distributing blessings as he came, ac- 
companied by much applause from all parts of the church 
and much camera-grinding in the press section. He is, by the 
way, a surprisingly small and stubby man. 

The Mass began and the basilica throbbed with gentle 
music from the choir, a cappella (no accompaniment). That 
singing had the power of a Bimini sunrise — gentle but over- 
whelming. The unison responses were sung by everyone. 
Certain of the responses ended on the supertonic (a note that 
wants to fall one more step to sound 'finished' ) . Those super- 
tonics rose up into the dome (under which I was sitting) 
and seemed to hang there ready to fall. They were joined by 
the genitive plurals of the Latin. 

At one point during the Mass the Pope knelt on a pad 
and prayed silently. The whole place grew so quiet for about 
three minutes (though it seemed longer) that not a cough 
was heard and only the eye, not the ear, could determine 


that thousands and thousands of people were assembled in the 
church. This was soon spoiled, though, by someone far in the 
rear who took that moment to blow his nose resoundingly. 

After the Mass was over the schema on liturgy was read 
through. Ballots were distributed to the Council Fathers and 
the business of the final vote was carried on. Eventually the 
votes were counted: four against, nineteen hundred-some for. 
This result was greeted with a great burst of applause. 

The other approved schema, that on communications, 
was read and another vote was taken (after the Fathers were 
cautioned to sign their ballots with their full names this 
time). After another long wait for counting the results were 
announced: 1960 placet and 64 non placet. 

After the applause the Pope promulgated both schemata, 
speaking literally ex cathedra. 

Then the cardinals all passed in review, each kneeling 
to kiss the Pope's ring and say good morning. Before they 
went up they took off and folded up their hats, thus leaving 
only little scarlet skull caps on, such as the men wear in the 
Jewish synagogue. 

But one of the cardinals forgot to take off the skull cap 
when he climbed the steps to the altar and throne. He was 
feeble and trembling with age. How exactly does an aide 
tell a cardinal to take off his cap? The aide rushed over, 
sidled up very confidentially, as though he were bearing a 
state secret, and murmured into the cardinal's ear, his hand 
reaching furtively for the cap. But the cardinal caught on 
and whisked it off himself. 

Then the Pope made his speech, which was unduly long 
and seemed to contain little in the way of surprises. It was 
difficult to follow his Latin, for he speaks very rapidly and 
none too clearly. Certain of the Observers told me that they 
too have trouble with his Latin. At the end of the speech 
there was a surprise, though, for the plans for the papal trip 
to Palestine were announced, an item which had not been 
included in the advance copies we had of the speech. The 
announcement provoked the greatest applause of the morning. 


After this was over the Pope got back on the portable 
throne and was carried swaying out, blessing as he went. 

I departed and retraced my way through the Vatican, not 
wanting to get caught in the crowds. Upon emerging I found 
St. Peter's Square entirely deserted, being blocked off. Many 
thousands were gathered as near as they could get, all strain- 
ing to catch sight of the Pope or of their favorite cardinal or 
bishop. They filled the Colonnades, the square in front of 
the Square, and the streets. Walls of policemen and plain 
clothesmen held them back. As I drew opposite the main 
entrance (front door) of the cathedral, the Council Fathers 
surged out, dripping every color, cardinal red and scarlet and 
white and yellow and laces, hats and trains, rings. At this 
moment a clot of priests who had been standing on the out- 
side forced the line of police and rushed up to the cardinals. 

I hastened on, into the Square. It certainly makes one 
feel important to be one single person walking across a piazza 
which has a capacity of half a million! As I drew near the 
mouth of the Square, hunting for some way to get through 
the thousands who were all wanting to go the other way, I 
seemed to hear murmurs of wonderment at who was the Big 
Potato coming out of the Square. (These may have been 
imaginary.) The police managed to clear a path for me, 
and I walked back out into Rome. 

Thurlow Weed 

(Mr. Weed is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary in the class of 1962. 
He is engaged in graduate study in the Waldensian Theological Seminary, Rome, 


Honest To God 

By John A. T. Robinson 
(The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1963), 143 pp. $1.65. 

The book which we are considering this afternoon is J. A. 
T. Robinson's Honest to God (Philadelphia: The Westminster 
Press, 1963). This book has not been selected because it rep- 
resents a break-through in theology nor because it offers some 
new and startling Christian insight. On the contrary, Bishop 
Robinson's book is frankly being discussed because it is a best- 
seller. It is a book which is being read and discussed in and 
out of the Christian Church. 1 

Why is this the case since Bishop Robinson does not offer 
us anything novel or unique? In the first place I believe the 
book is being read because it does grapple with issues which 
concern every thinking believer. Robinson deals with the prob- 
lems of communicating the gospel, the understanding of mir- 
acles in a scientific age, the location of God in a world of new 
physics and so on. Both the average Christian and the pro- 
fessional or specialist in theology are constantly faced with 
these questions. Any pastor worth his salt must have dealt 
with these issues in preaching and counselling within the week. 

A second reason why people are probably reading Honest 
To God is sheer curiosity. This is especially motivating to non- 
Christians. For example, when popular books were written on 
the Dead Sea Scrolls they sold by the scores. Why? Because 
many non-believers or nominal churchmen felt something had 
been uncovered to explain (or explain away) the uniqueness 
of Jesus Christ and perhaps the Bible. So it is with the Bishop's 
book. Here at least, they believe, they can read the confession 
of a Christian, yes, even a bona fide Bishop, who is brutally 
honest. Robinson expresses some of their misgivings, vague 
feelings and doubts. Non-Christians as well as believers are 
curious to hear about what an honest churchman has to say. 

But regardless of the reasons, the book is being read by 
people in and out of the Church and we need to look at it. 

1 This is symbolized by the review which appeared in the New York Times on June 
23, 1963. 


/. The Book Itself 

Let us examine briefly the content of the book. It opens 
with a discussion of how we talk about God. Do we say that 
he is up there? or out there? or in here? None of these seems 
to be adequate. They are spatial references. 

If we have difficulties finding language to describe God's 
location, the same is true with respect to his person. Is God 
an entity, a something? a somebody? When we try to answer 
this affirmatively we tend to talk about God as though he were 
just a large edition of something natural. Or, in other words, 
we refer to God as super-nature. Bishop Robinson affirms his 
desire not to change the Christian doctrine of God but to 
restate the same in some more adequate fashion. 

The author feels that Tillich has coined a useful expres- 
sion by referring to God as the depth of existence. Depth is 
used here as it is in the phrase depth psychology, meaning a 
profound dimension not readily observed. Man can come to 
know God in, with and under his encounters with other per- 
sons and perhaps even things (p. 53) . God is found within the 
natural, though he is beyond nature; he is not spoken of as 
some foreign object (a super-nature) who crashes into our 
natural realm from time to time. In short, Robinson attempts 
to reinterpret transcendence in a way which preserves its va- 
lidity while detaching it from the projections of supranatural- 
ism (p. 56). 

This means, according to Robinson, that the Incarnation 
should not be envisioned as a space trip which God took from 
up there to down here, but rather the Incarnation is God's 
manifesting of himself in Jesus of Nazareth. Perfect love, that 
which is beyond us, i.e., transcendent, was embodied in Jesus 

This manner of talking about God is in harmony with the 
scriptural teaching that the holy, the sacred, is to be found 
in the common, not in isolation or separation from the natural, 
common elements of life. Christ told his followers that they 
would meet him in the poor, the hungry and the imprisoned. 
By the cup of cold water one's dedication can be seen. The 
holy is found and served in the common elements of life. 


In terms of ethics, Bishop Robinson feels that we can no 
longer entertain the idea that we have a supranatural set of 
rules to guide us. Rather we are to respond in love to every 
concrete situation in which we find ourselves. Thus we will 
be responding according to the will of God revealed in Jesus 
Christ (p. 114). 

Finally, Dr. Robinson challenges us to consider whether 
or not our image of God has not become an idol. Are we 
willing to abandon this idol and live in complete dependence 
upon the God who has called us in Jesus Christ. 

77. A Discussion Of The Issues 

So much for the content of the book itself. 

Why did the Bishop write this book? He tells us that he 
believes that the Church stands on the brink of a new era 
in which we are going to have to rethink and rephrase our 
theology. We must do this for several reasons. 

First, if we expect men to listen to us today we must 
speak intelligently. This is not to say that man is to do the 
work which only God's Spirit can do, i.e., open another man's 
heart. It is, however, to affirm that the church is simply lazy 
and unfaithful if she does not address men in an understand- 
able way. The New Testament writers wrote in the common 
language of the day so that they might be understood. 2 

In the second place, we must seek to rethink our theology 
to be sure that we have not tied Christianity to a secular world 
view or philosophy. As Robinson indicates, "it is going to 
become increasingly difficult to know what the true defence 
of Christian truth requires." (p. 7). 

The latter seems to me to be the most significant reason 
for engaging in this study. Have we in reality tied the revela- 
tion of God to a purely secular worldview that is now out- 
moded? 3 

Much of this discussion of God not being "out there" 
or the supranatural not being something "up there" might 

2 Barth, who could hardly be accused of being apologetic, makes this same point 
in Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1962) Trans. G. Bromiley, IV/3, 
second half, pp. 850 fT. 

3 This is hardly a recent discussion. That is today, this issue has been before the 
church almost perennially. It has, however, become sharp again in our day. 


seem foreign to you. We can use these expressions without 
literally imagining God to be located a certain number of 
miles from here. The commotion may appear to you to be 
only a lots of dust stirred up by theologians who do not have 
anything much to do. 

But this is not the case. The people in the First Pres- 
byterian Church of Chicken- Switch, Georgia, are not dis- 
cussing these issues. But their children are. Under the auspices 
of the National Academy of Science and other such groups, 
our children are learning the so-called new physics today. The 
gap between the knowledge of the expert in atomic physics, 
for example, and the first grader's concept of the field is being 
diminished daily by a new method of teaching the physical 
sciences. 4 A conversation with an advanced mathematician 
this past summer informed me of the fact that first graders 
are going to be instructed in relativity. The students at Georgia 
Tech are having discussions of space travel in which time is 
a relative factor. In other words, a new worldview is control- 
ling the minds of the on-coming generation. 

Now you and I may not be able to grasp this great revo- 
lution in man's way of conceiving of the universe, in which 
matter is no longer thought of as inert substance but as in 
process; universal mechanistic determinism is doubted if not 
denied. In short, our children are not conceiving of such basic 
concepts as matter and causality in anything like the same 
manner in which we learned to think about reality. Bishop 
Robinson knows this. He knows that people who grasp this 
new view of reality stumble over our Christian concepts which 
are anchored in an ancient metaphysics. If men must stumble, 
let it be over the scandal of the gospel, not over our barricades 
of ancient metaphysical verbage. 5 

Bishop Robinson, then, is concerned about the language 
and thought-forms of the Christian faith because he knows 

4 See Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education (Cambridge: The Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1962). 

5 The revolution in viewing the universe to which I allude is hardly new. It is, 
however, reaching the average man in a new way today. The process theologians, 
especially Hartshorne and D. D. Williams have been struggling for sometime to 
relate Christian thought to the process philosophy of Whitehead. Others are now 
taking up this position. See Schubert Ogden's Christ Without Myth (N. Y. : 
Harper, 1961) and John Cobb, Jr., Alternatives in Protestant Theology (Philadel- 
phia: The Westminster Press, 1963). 


men's minds are no longer held captive by the traditional 
philosophy of western civilization. 

Bishop Robinson is no doubt more concerned about this 
problem than we are for a second reason. He has lived through 
the recent philosophical debates in Britain. These debates 
have been monopolized by linguistic analysis. The British the- 
ologians have been challenged to speak meaningfully in a 
way which we have not. 6 We continue to use words and 
phrases without thinking of their referant or raising the ques- 
tion of the meaning of our statements. 

One of the fruits of the British discussion is simply this: 
statements about God are of a different order from remarks 
relating to particular empirical facts. 

From an entirely different source, this same emphasis is 
being made. The existentialist philosopher seeks to affirm that 
human existence can never be discussed on the same level as 
the existence of objects. Religious writers have picked this 
up and asserted the same thing about God. His existence 
cannot be discussed in the same categories as one discourses 
about a rock, or else our language inadvertently turns God 
into an object. 

Today the insights of Heidegger are being discussed 
widely by theologians. Heidegger sees a difference between 
being itself and beings. The difference must be reflected in 
our mode of communication. Language about being cannot 
be the same as language about particular empirical beings. 
How much more so the language about God. 7 

We must pause to note that in our own part of the Christ- 
endom the people who tend to see all statements as being alike 
are not the logical positivists, but the fundamentalists. "His- 
tory is history and don't confuse us with a lot of German words 
for the same," they say. "A fact is a fact" and so on. It is 
likewise interesting to note that these are the very people who 
from time to time lament the fact that there are no truly great 
Christians who are recognized poets, novelists or artists. One 

Man T. Ramsay, Religious Language (London: SCM Press); A. Flew and A. 
Maclntyre, New Essays in Philosophical Theology (London: SCM Press); Mao 
Intrye, ed. Metaphysical Beliefs (London: SCM Press). 

7 See Arnold Come's brilliant discussion of this matter in Robinson and Cobb's 
The Later Heidegger and Theology (N. Y., Harper and Row, 1963), pp. 122-24. 


article which I read not long ago exhorted Christians to try 
harder and work more diligently so that they could become 
great writers. . 

People with wooden minds will never become great writ- 
ers. These mechanically minded believers who chop reality 
up into neat little blocks will never create poems. These are 
just the people who, calling themselves the defenders of the 
faith, are likely to be found defending an outmoded, non- 
biblical world-view. 

Bishop Robinson does not create a problem for theology; 
he simply popularizes the dilemma in which we find ourselves. 
It seems to me that he is saying nothing other than what Tillich, 
Barth and Bultmann have been saying for some time (if you 
can imagine these three agreeing on anything) . They unite 
in trying to affirm that God is of a different order from cre- 
ation and is not to be confused with anything natural. Barth 
speaks of the wholly other God ; Tillich says God is not a being ; 
Bultmann says we must not even use objective or mythical 
language in talking about God. Each in his own way seeks 
to stress this truth. 


What shall we say to these things? One might take the 
time to point out weaknesses in Bishop Robinson's presenta- 
tion. One could call in question certain interpretations, use of 
material, logical inferences and the like. Many other review- 
ers have done this for us. Let me call your attention to other 

Bishop Robinson labors primarily as an apologist. He is 
concerned that the church be understood, and, therefore, he 
seeks a new metaphysical framework for expressing the biblical 
truth. By following Tillich and Bultmann as closely as he 
does, he comes perilously close to obliterating the Creator- 
creature distinction. There is almost an identity of human 
spirit and Holy Spirit (p. 49). The Barthians have raised the 
flag, warning of a revival of the weaknesses of Schleiermacher's 
theology. 8 

8 Grover Foley, "Religionless Religion". The Christian Century, Sept. 11, 1963. 


Nevertheless, we should remember that Barth himself has 
argued alongside the Bishop that Christianity is not dependent 
upon one Weltanschauung. Barth has been able to assert the 
prior, independent, concrete and "eventful" objectivity of the 
divine being over against the contingently independent created 
being. At the same time Barth understands man's faith as 
both a work of the Holy Spirit and the human personality 
and this enables him to speak meaningfully of the unity of 
God and man. Barth is accused of inconsistencies and absurdi- 
ties because he tries to speak of the duality of divine and crea- 
turely realities while at the same time stressing the unity of 
both in the Spirit and thus flirting with monistic Idealism. 9 
In sum, the Bishop is looking for a new metaphysical frame- 
work within which to discuss Christianity. So is everybody else. 

We might raise the question of the adequacy of any 
thought form to express what the theologian must say. And 
yet all theology must be clothed in philosophical dress. 

And this prompts me to ask why the Bishop did not talk 
about sin. Do we have a new Gnosticism aborning here? Is 
the real problem the ability to communicate or formulate 
knowledge consistently, or is it sin? One wishes the Bishop 
had at least commented on this. 

In concluding, let us focus on the virtue of the book: it 
does raise some of the right questions. Robinson is asking 
us to face the question raised by William Inge when he said: 
"We cannot preserve Platonism without Christianity, or Chris- 
tianity without Platonism." 10 Was Nietzsche right, in other 
words, when he said that Christianity is Platonism for the 
people? 11 

Some of us trust that this is not the case. But we are per- 
plexed as we attempt to formulate our Christian belief with 
the aid of new concepts from the natural and the philosophical 
world. And like it or not, all theology uses such concepts. 

9 Hans Frei, "Analogy and the Spirit in the Theology of Karl Barth", Unpublished 
paper, no date. 

10 Quoted by John Macquarrie, Twentieth Century Religious Thought (N. Y. : 
Harper and Row, 1963), p. 150.' 

u Quoted by Heidegger. An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. R. Manheim (N. 
Y.: Anchor Books, 1961), p. 90. 


If we face this situation honestly, at least two things come 
to our minds. First, might not the Bishop's discussion provoke 
us to think of the relativity of the Christian religion while at 
the same time move us to affirm the uniqueness (the once-for- 
all-ness) of the revelation in Jesus Christ? Absolute and ulti- 
mate authority may be claimed for Jesus Christ but not for 
the Christian religion (man's cultural responses to God in 
Christ) . If this challenge were to be accepted by the American 
Church, we might be able to do something about our Protestant 
nativism, which is our greatest liability at the present time. 

The second effect of dealing earnestly with Bishop Rob- 
inson might be the encouraging of the American Church to 
take language more seriously. Language and myth influence 
man's understanding of reality; they exercise considerable con- 
trol over man's behavior as a consequence. "Language predis- 
poses a mind to certain modes of thought and certain ways of 
arranging the shared subjective reality of a linguistic com- 
munity." 12 By ignoring this we in the Church are no doubt 
contributing to the moral confusion of our people as well as 
to the frustration of modern man in his quest for identity. 
There is a relationship between one's view of himself (Selbs- 
tanschauung) and one's understanding of reality (Weltans- 
chauung) . 

Bishop Robinson does us a service, then, by prompting us 
to ask whether the stumbling-block found in the Church's 
message is Jesus Christ or an outmoded linguistic and phil- 
osophical frame of reference. We must answer this question 
with caution, for as John Macquarrie has said: 

"At this stage, . . . the picture which confronts us is still 
a very confused one. We have seen the old landmarks crumble 
and the old dividing lines rubbed out, but new ones have not 
as yet got firmly established." 13 

"For dissensions are necessary if only to show which of 
your members are sound." (I Cor. 11:19 NEB) . 

Neely D. McCarter 

Associate Professor of Christian Education 

13 See Jerome Brune, On Knowing (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), 
p. 137. 

t. t p. 252. 


The Historical Jesus 

By Heinz Zahrnt 

Translated by J. S. Bowden 

(Harper and Row, 1963, 159 pages, $3.50). 

Often amid the rigors of day-by-day visiting and week-by- 
week preaching the busy parish minister finds the task of 
"keeping up" an impossible one. And so the theological world 
constantly stands in need of "interpretations," books which 
can effectively and accurately translate the investigations of 
the scholars and pundits. Heinz Zahrnt's The Historical Jesus 
is such a book. It seeks to describe the various turns the in- 
vestigations of the historical Jesus have taken in the past fifty 
years, with special emphasis on the more recent "new quest." 
Following the results of the pioneering minds of the continent 
like Guenther Bornkamm, Ernst Fuchs, and Ernst Kaese- 
mann, Zahrnt sounds an eminently listenable call to the 
Church to continue its studies of the historical Jesus so as to 
preserve its preaching "from a false docetism or from his- 
torical mythology." 

Zahrnt begins with a survey of the emergence of historical 
understanding in the latter half of the seventeenth and eigh- 
teenth centuries. A critical methodology developing from 
within the discipline of theology during this period led to the 
removal of the dogmatic element from exegesis and empha- 
sized that the Bible did not suddenly drop down from heaven 
like a meteor but was itself the process of a long historical 
growth. This emancipation of the Scriptures from dogma 
made its most significant impact on the question of the figure 
of Jesus. Do the evangelistists give an accurate testimony of 
the earthly Jesus (both who he was and what he said and 
did), or are they spokesmen only articulating the faith of the 
early Church? If the latter is true, then could not the his- 
torians cut through these dogmatic incrustations and lay bare 
the picture of Jesus as he really was, uninterpreted by the likes 
of Paul and John? Liberal theology in the Harnackian tradi- 
tion answered in the affimative and gave impetus to scholars 
seeking to write biographies of Jesus. Their watchword ran 
"from the Biblical Christ to the historical Jesus." 


Zahrnt cites five individuals or movements which in 
various ways have exposed the fallacies of the "old quest" 
and have shaped the context in which the "new quest" has 
arisen. Foremost of course is Albert Schweitzer whose monu- 
mental work The Quest of the Historical Jesus (first German 
edition 1906) uncovered the latent self-deception of liberal 
theology and its historical untenability. Schweitzer explained 
the phenomenon of Jesus chiefly on the basis of the apocalyp- 
ticism of late Judaism and so in turn emphasized the radical 
otherness and futurity of the kingdom of God as preached by 
Jesus. What Schweitzer could not understand was how the 
scholars of the "old quest" had overlooked this strange, un- 
worldly element in Jesus' proclamation and had made Jesus 
merely a mirror of their own culture and presuppositions. 
Historical criticism had simply not been critical enough. 

Secondly, the rise of the "history of religions school" 
of which Schweitzer himself was a member and of which 
Troeltsch was the leading voice tended to undercut the results 
of the "old quest" by emphasizing the relativity of history. 
Much of New Testament Christianity was described as a syn- 
cretistic development from Hellenistic influences. What was 
important was not the "real Jesus" but the deity worshipped 
in the liturgy. "Here as everywhere the cult ousted history" 
(p. 58). 

Karl Barth represented a third blow to "the latent or 
manifest historical pantheism of liberal theology" by taking 
seriously the revelatory character of the Bible. Historical 
research, though important, can never provide a basis for faith 
since the pure historian stops short of where the Bible asks 
to be taken seriously — as the Word of God. It is the "given- 
ness" of revelation, not historical investigation, which is the 
starting-point of theology. 

Though different from Barth in intent and scope, the 
form critics (e.g., M. Dibelius, Schmidt, and Bultmann) pro- 
vided a similar influence as far as the historical study of Jesus 
is concerned. They sought to go behind the written sources 
of the gospels to discover how the oral tradition was shaped 
before the evangelists gave it fixed form in the narrative. 
They concluded that all gospel-material was interpreted by 


faith and that no matter how far one goes back in the tradition 
one always finds Jesus only in the kerygma of the Church. 

Finally, kerygmatic theology, seen in Martin Kaehler and 
R. Bultmann, followed the form critics in pointing to the 
futility of pressing back through the primitive Christian tes- 
timony to the earthly Jesus. "Kaehler's whole interest lay in 
keeping the decision of faith in Jesus Christ independent of 
the course of historical study and thus of the 'learned papacy 
of the historians'" (p. 84). Bultmann, by emphasizing that 
Christ meets men "in the word of preaching and nowhere 
else," has wielded the same influence. 

The question then arises: What of the connection be- 
tween the earthly Jesus and the Christ of the kerygma? If 
the identity of the former is doubtful, do we not run the risk 
of theological docetism? Can history and faith be so wrenched 
apart? It is at this point that Zahrnt joins his voice with 
Kaesemann, Bornkamm, and Fuchs to urge a renewed interest 
in the "quest of the historical Jesus." Though written from a 
post-Easter perspective, the gospels are nevertheless concerned 
with the pre-Easter history of Jesus, not only with who he 
is but also with who he was. Faith, therefore, does not pre- 
clude but demands historical investigation; an investigation 
which does not peel away the kerygmatic shell to get at the 
historical core but rather seeks the historical Jesus within the 
kerygma itself; an investigation which attempts to establish 
the continuity between the proclamation made by Jesus and 
the proclamation of Jesus. 

Zahrnt in his own interpretation of the earthly Jesus 
discounts the methodology of Oscar Cullmann who traces the 
various Christological titles. Jesus, he says, did not seek to 
justify his mission by laying claim to an office he already 
occupied. Instead he appeared as a rabbi or a prophet, and 
yet a rabbi or prophet whose preaching and conduct showed 
him to be much more. The key word is "authority," the 
astonishing sovereignty with which he met men. "In all that 
Jesus says and does, he confronts man directly, immediately, 
without medium, through himself with God" (p. 114). It fol- 
lows, then, that to be related to Jesus is to be related to God; 
to follow him in the present means to partake of the future 


salvation. "Unsupported by any office, any vindication, or 
even any special metaphysical quality, Jesus dares to announce 
the imminence of the kingdom of God and thus to realize in 
his own person God's gracious purpose" (p. 116). The fact 
that Jesus did not rest his case on Messianic titles but revealed 
his uniqueness in the "authority" of his teaching and conduct 
supports the view that this uniqueness was not invented by 
others but goes back to Jesus himself. 

This approach can be illustrated by the way we are to 
understand Jesus as Son of God. The title, whether used by 
Jesus or not, can be misunderstood. It is a designation not 
of a physical or physiological quality Jesus possessed but of 
his unique attitude within history. He is the Son because he 
alone allows God really to be his Father, and in allowing God 
to be his Father he shows himself to be the Son. As the Son 
he forms the first link in a new chain; in him a new family 
of sons begins. 

The resurrection is decisive for Zahrnt because Jesus' 
death would in effect have been a denial of this directness 
and authority exhibited in his ministry. When God raised 
Jesus, then, he confirmed his own action, i.e., his unmediated 
presence which had been evident in this historical person. 
"Jesus is not different after Easter from what he was before 
Easter. After his resurrection it simply comes about that every- 
thing which earlier was indirectly and obscurely present ap- 
pears in a new and bright light. Now Jesus emerges as the 
person he really is. Indirect Christology becomes direct 
Christology" (p. 138). 

Here is a readable and lively report of what has been 
and is taking place in an important area of New Testament 
studies. The book is not without its short-comings. One won- 
ders if Zahrnt has any real appreciation of the varying con- 
cepts of history standing behind scholars of the "old quest" 
and the "new quest." What he means by "history" is never 
clearly defined. Perhaps such a definition demands another 

Charles B. Cousar 

Associate Professor of New Testament Exegesis. 


Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, edited by Claus West- 
ermann, English translation edited by James Luther Mays 
(John Knox Press, Richmond, Virginia, 1963), 363 pp. 

The Old Testament and Christian Faith: a theological dis- 
cussion, edited by Bernhard W. Anderson (Harper & Row, 
New York, 1963), 271 pp. 

The interpretation of the Old Testament by the Christian 
church is the theme around which nearly thirty essays have 
been collected in two recent volumes. Essays on Old Testament 
Hermeneutics provides American students with a group of 
essays already collected by Claus Westermann of Heidelberg, 
some of which had been translated and published in the quar- 
terly journal INTERPRETATION, while the rest of the essays 
are now made available through the efforts of one of the editors 
of INTERPRETATION. The second volume, The Old Tes- 
tament and Christian Faith, edited by Bernhard W. Anderson 
of Drew Seminary, offers American scholars opportunity to 
join in the discussions with continental scholars on the slightly 
more specific problem of the relevance of the Old Testament 
for Christian faith. 

Until recently American Biblical scholarship has been 
dominated by the down to earth historical and archaeological 
research of W. F. Albright and his followers, as opposed to 
the earlier domination of historical and literary criticism stem- 
ming from nineteenth century German scholarship. While 
there has been an interest in the theology of the Old Testament, 
so far no major work in this field has been produced in Amer- 
ica. The interests of Old Testament scholars have tended to 
be confined to historically oriented studies and linguistic mat- 
ters. Except for the eighteen years of publication of INTER- 
PRETATION the peculiar problems of Old Testament inter- 
pretation have been relatively ignored. Now two significant 
volumes of essays invite examination of the important ques- 
tions of the relevance and interpretation of the Old Testament 
by the Christian church. As opposed to the purely historical 
concerns of archaeological and critical scholars, the Christian 
faith has persisted in holding that the Old Testament is some- 
thing more than a mere record of events antecedent to those 
which involved Jesus Christ and his followers. Defining this 


"something more" is the goal of most of the essays included 
in the two volumes. 

A thought-provoking paper by Rudolf Bultmann sees a 
fundamentally different demonstration of God's grace in Jesus 
than is to be found in the Old Testament manifestations of 
grace. The difference is so radical that the Old Testament is 
a "closed chapter" (The Old Testament, p. 31) for the Chris- 
tian, and the proofs from scripture used in the New Testament 
"must be abolished" because they obscure the character of 
faith and also because rational, historical criticism can no 
longer allow them. While Bultmann still sees a possible "peda- 
gogical" use of the Old Testament by the Christian church, 
he suggests that a similar — and all important — "pre-under- 
standing of the Gospel" could be found within other historical 
embodiments of the divine Law ( The Old Testament, p. 17). 
Bultmann's argument does not go so far as to attack the canon 
of scripture, but he is promptly accused of a modern Marcion- 
ism, and many of the other papers found in the Anderson 
volume seek to establish a more satisfactory Christian approach 
to the Old Testament. Alan Richardson, for example, declares 
(p. 47) that "the history of Israel, including the history of 
Jesus, is our history, and it cannot mean to outsiders what it 
means to us." 

Carl Michalson's essay, however, sees value in Bultmann's 
application of the idea "pre-understanding" to the use of the 
Old Testament in the Christian church. Whereas the middle 
ages absorbed the Old Testament into the New Testament and 
thus prompted a sort of monotestamentism, historical criticism 
has provided the first effective way to treat the Old Testament 
in its proper light. Bultmann's analysis of the Old Testament 
as a pre-understanding of the Gospel restores a sense of con- 
tinuity to God's work, and now the Old Testament can con- 
front us with "figures of real historical life, undergoing real 
moral crisis . . ." (The Old Testament, p. 63). 

Eric Voegelin is also glad to see prefiguration emerge 
into the "full light of a science of experience and symboliza- 
tion," but he considers that Bultmann's suggestion has a gnostic 
character, because of the loss of clear contact between terms 
and the reality to which they are supposed to refer. 


Another approach to the Old Testament is emphatically 
presented in a number of essays in the other volume with the 
attempt to set forth a modern typological exegesis and to dis- 
tinguish it from allegorization and to protect it from abuse. 
Traditional typology has seen certain objects, institutions or 
figures of the Old Testament as a kind of visible prediction of 
some feature of the experience of Christ. For example, in a 
manner similar to Matthew's use of the words of Hosea, "out 
of Egypt have I called my son," as a prediction of the journey 
which took the infant Jesus to Egypt, John presents the Mosaic 
serpent lifted up in the wilderness as a sort of prediction of the 
crucifixion. Instead Hans Walter Wolff sees the discovery of 
an analogy between the two testaments as the heart of typo- 
logical interpretation. Specifically, in both testaments he sees 
a witness to the covenant will of God and a fundamental his- 
torical continuity. This witness is different in the two testa- 
ments, and does not result in an identity between them. The 
analogy is one of "way and goal, of shadow and body, of pic- 
ture and object, of promise and fulfillment, of engagement and 
marriage." (Essays, p. 1 80 ) . In practice Old Testament texts 
for which no other comparable document exists must be con- 
sidered in relation to the proper New Testament texts because 
the student may miss the meaning of the text that the authors 
had in mind in their time if he neglects the New Testament 
context. (Essays y p. 181-2). In this effort the student is cau- 
tioned not to suspend his historical-critical work. 

Some highly significant contributions appear in papers 
which deal with special topics such as "History and Reality," 
"The Way of Promise through the Old Testament," "The 
New Covenant and the Old," all of which appear in the 
Anderson volume. Some of these simply illustrate what their 
authors consider to be proper hermeneutical method as applied 
to particular topics. Of special interest to alumni of Columbia 
Seminary is the essay on "The Historicality of Biblical Lan- 
guage" by James M. Robinson, son of Professor William Childs 
Robinson of the Seminary. The article calls attention to the 
historical orientation of Old Testament blessings, and relates 
this to current philosophical discussions. 

All of the papers collected in the two volumes deserve 
the careful attention of thoughtful students and leaders of the 


Christian church. Some provide needed cross-examination of 
the two central contributions, but it cannot be said that any 
single essay provides a last word on the subject of the relevance 
of the Old Testament or its interpretation by the Christian 
church. A Catholic contributor, John L. McKenzie, offers a 
summary characterization of his own effort to formulate a 
statement on the proper use of the Old Testament which may 
serve for all the papers in both volumes: "Anyone who faces 
this question must now answer it by a personal synthesis 
which, if he is prudent, he recognizes as provisional" (Old 
Testament, p. 106). 

James H. Gailey, Jr. 

Professor of Old Testament Language 
and Literature 


Publications by Members of the Faculty 
of Columbia Theological Seminary 1963/4 



Christianity and Sex ( Inter Varsity Press, Chicago, 
111., 1963), 60 pp. 

Articles: "Literature has its Manichaens", Reformed 
Theological Review, March 1963. 
"The Place of Literature in the Life of the Chris- 
tian Man", Dior an, vol. 3, 1963. 
"I have a joy", The Presbyterian Journal, May 

"Evangelicals and the Church in Australia", The 
Churchman, June 1963. 

"Moral Judgments and the Interpretation of 
History," The Churchman, March 1964. 
"Scripture Union Notes on St. Matthew's Gospel 
and 1 Peter", Scripture Union, London. 


Articles: "Commentary on the Sunday School Lessons", 
The Christian Observer. 
Editorials and Reviews, The Christian Observer. 


Books: What Makes a Jew? (Covenant Life Curriculum 
Press, Richmond, Va., 1964), 48 pp. 

Articles: "Pentecost", Survey, June 1963. 

"Old Testament Theology and Missions", A The- 
ology of Missions, Columbia Theological Sem- 
inary, Decatur, Ga. June 1963. 


Articles: "The Church's Missionary Vocation according to 
Luke — Acts", A Theology of Missions, Colum- 
bia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Ga. June 



Books : Extraordinary Christianity: The Life and Thought 
of Alexander Vinet (Westminster Press, Philadel- 
phia, 1964), 125 pp. 

Translator, Bieler, Social Humanism of Calvin 
(John Knox Press, Richmond, Va., 1964). 


Booklet: "The Gospel is Relevant." An address delivered 
on Journal Day, August 13, 1963, and published 
by The Presbyterian Journal. 


Articles: "Expectation of the Christ", devotionals in Day 
by Day, December, 1963. 


Books : Priests Without Robes (Covenant Life Curriculum 
Press, Richmond, Va., 1964), 48 pp. 

Translator, Karl Barth, The Heidelberg Cate- 
chism for Today (John Knox Press, Richmond, 
Va., 1964), 141 pp. 

Articles: "Karl Barth's Theology of Missions", A Theology 
of Missions, Columbia Theological Seminary, De- 
catur, Ga. June 1963. 


Books: Plain Talk about Christian Words (Royal Pub- 
lishers, Johnson City, Tenn., 1964), 222 pp. 

Booklets: "The Guidance of God" 
"The Will of God" 
"How to Trust God" 
"Messianic Prophecy" 
"A Prophet like unto me" 
"Epistles of John" 

"How to make a success of the Christian Life" 
"How to use the Bible effectively" 
"How to understand suffering" 
"The Secret of Christian Unity" 

Radio Addresses, The Bible for You. 



Books: But For The Grace of God (Hodder & Stoughton, 
London, 1964), 95 pp. 

Christianity and the Problem of Origins (Presby- 
terian & Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 
1964), 40 pp. 

What Is Happening in the Roman Catholic 
Church? (Church Book Room Press, London, 
1964), 16 pp. 

Articles : "Current Religious Thought", Christianity Today, 
26 April 1963, 5 July 1963, 27 September 1963, 
6 December 1963, 14 February 1964, 24 April 
1964, 3 July 1964. 

"Man and His Salvation". Christianity Today, 
11 October 1963. 

"The Legacy of John Calvin", Editorial, Chris- 
tianity Today, 22* May 1964. 

Editorials, The Churchman (London) , June 1963, 
September 1963, December 1963, March 1964, 
June 1964. 


Books: Hear the Word of the Lord, (Covenant Life Cur- 
riculum Press, Richmond, Va., 1964), 220 pp. 

Leader's Guide, (Covenant Life Curriculum 
Press, Richmond, Va., 1964), 96 pp. 


Articles: "Books in Pastoral Psychology, 1963", Pastoral 
Psychology, January 1964 (vol. 12, No. 120). 

james Mcdowell richards 

Article : "The Church and the World Today", Christianity 
Today, March 27, 1964. 


Books : The Nature of the Church in Christian Faith and 
Modern Theology, (Meredith Press, 1964). 


Translator, in collaboration with James M. Rob- 
inson, Edward Thurneysen, The Sermon on the 
Mount (John Knox Press, Richmond, Va., and 
S. P. G. K., London, 1964). 

Articles: "For Prayer in Public Schools", The Presbyterian 
Survey, April, 1964. 

"A Plea For Prayer in the Public Schools", The 
Presbyterian Journal, March 4, 1964. 

"The God of Biblical Revelation and the Schools 
of America", prepared for National Study Con- 
ference on Church and State of W. C. C, Febru- 
ary^ 1964. 

"Church and State: A Plea for Prayer in the 
Schools 5 ,, Columbia Theological Seminary, De- 
catur, Ga., April, 1964. 

"In the Fullness of Time, meditations on Gal. 
4:4-6", Day by Day, December, 1963. 

"The Differing Functions in One Body", The 
Presbyterian Journal, January 15, 1964. 

"The Nature of the Church", Christian Faith 
and Modern Theology (ed. C. F. H. Henry, Chan- 
nel Press, N. Y., 1964).